Georgia midfielder Katie Ralys spoiled South Carolina's senior night Sunday with a tying goal in the final minute of regulation that handed the Gamecocks a bittersweet 1-1 tie at Stone Stadium.
The Bulldogs came into Columbia 0-8-0 in conference play but did not lay down for mighty South Carolina, snapping the Gamecocks' 12-game winning streak. Georgia's Louise Hogrell came up big with eight saves as South Carolina fired 21 shots while holding the visiting side to nine. With the tie, South Carolina can still ensure their spot at the top of the Southeastern Conference standings Friday but might need a win at Florida.
Before the game, Gamecock fans saluted forwards Meaghan Carrigan, Savannah McCaskill and Lauren Jankowski; midfielders Lindsey Lane, Dominique Babbitt and Alexis Pendergraft; and defender Anna Conklin before for their final regular season game at Stone Stadium. All but Pendergraft, who was ruled medically ineligible for the 2017 season, were part of head coach Shelley Smith’s starting 11.
Despite the tender ceremony, South Carolina showed their visitors from Athens, Georgia, no mercy from the opening whistle, controlling the ball for much of the first half. Strong play from the Gamecock midfielders stifled Georgia’s attempts to push the ball past the center line as the Bulldogs managed only two shots in the opening 45 minutes.
After quality scoring chances from McCaskill and substitute Ryan Gareis, Lane finally got the Gamecocks on the board with a converted penalty kick the 34th minute. It was her second goal of the season and first since burying another PK past Alabama’s Kat Stratton during their first conference win on Sept. 15.
Georgia’s offense gave Mikayla Krzeczowski the night off until the 41st minute, when the sophomore goalkeeper barely nudged a header from Daria Stan over the bar to keep the Gamecocks ahead. It was Krzeczowski’s only save of the half.
McCaskill gave South Carolina a chance at a two-goal lead going in the 43rd minute with a long run from midfield. Luciana Zullo took a strong shot off a pass from McCaskill but it was gobbled up by Bulldogs goalkeeper Louise Hogrell to keep the score 1-0 at halftime. Hogrell stopped five of six Gamecock shots on goal in the first half.
South Carolina continued to pressure the Georgia net in the second half as Gareis nearly put home a searing strike in the 58th that cleared Hogrell but bounced off the upper right post to safety. Zullo followed up only minutes later with a blistering shot from just steps inside the box that Hogrell gloved to keep the Bulldogs in it.
Though Georgia's offense remained snakebit as the second half got underway, the Bulldog defenders managed to keep South Carolina's shots outside or just inside the box. Of the eight second-half shots that the Gamecocks managed, only two were on target.
Time continued to tick away with Lane's marker as the only score, but disaster finally struck for South Carolina in the 90th minute. Georgia’s first seven corner kicks fell flat, but the eighth time was the charm as Ralys beat Krzeczowski to even the score with just 52 seconds to play. Ralys's shot was only Georgia’s third on goal of the game and seventh total.
South Carolina began extra time with possession, but only managed one shot on net in the first 10 minutes of overtime. Gamecocks forward Lauren Chang nearly beat Hogrell with a long strike in the 99th minute, but her shot fell just wide.
Georgia's Kelsey Killean almost ended it in the 107th minute with a shot just outside the penalty area that barely streaked wide of the right post. Another shot from Killean at the buzzer missed the South Carolina cage and topped off the Gamecocks' first tie since Aug. 19, 2016, against Oklahoma.
"It's one of those things you learn from," Smith said after the game. "We're disappointed, but ... this could be a good lesson as we ... get closer to postseason play ... We need to be better and make sure we finish games off."
The Gamecocks head to Gainesville Friday for their regular season finale against Florida. With a win against the Gators, South Carolina will finish 2017 with the standalone lead atop the SEC for the second straight season. Television coverage begins at 7 p.m. on SEC Network.