Photo: Yangxing Ding / The Daily Gamecock

Women's soccer earns second straight SEC title

With a 1-0 win at No. 17 Florida on Thursday, the No. 3 South Carolina women's soccer team (15-1-1, 9-0-1 SEC) earned its second-straight regular season SEC title. 

The win in Thursday's regular season finale at Donald R. Dizney Stadium was marked by Elexa Bahr's goal in the 80th minute off an assist from senior striker Savannah McCaskill. It was Bahr's seventh goal and McCaskill's team-leading ninth assist of the season.

Sophomore goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski has recorded shutouts in 11 of the Gamecocks' last 14 matches, and has allowed a conference-best three goals in SEC play this season. Florida attempted just five total shots, with two shots on goal. 

According to GamecocksOnline.com, South Carolina is the fifth team in SEC history to win back-to-back SEC regular season titles. The feat hasn't been done since the 2013 and 2014 seasons when Texas A&M won two straight SEC regular season titles. Similar to Thursday's match, South Carolina defeated Florida 2-1 in 2011 to capture its first regular-season conference title.

The 2017 title is the fourth SEC Championship for the Gamecocks, who won the 2009 SEC Tournament before placing first in conference standings in 2011, 2016 and 2017.

Head coach Shelley Smith, who has led the Gamecocks to a 20-0-1 SEC record since 2016, credited the perseverance of her players after Thursday's contest.

“Our girls battled all night, and everyone played the role they needed to – I couldn’t be more proud of this team," Smith told GamecocksOnline.com. "Elexa (Bahr) came up huge, and she has done that time-and-time again this year. Someone had to break through, and I thought we had more chances on the night. It’s crazy to be here with how tough this league is. I’m amazed and very proud of this group – they fight for each other, and to have a championship two years in a row is incredible.” 

With the culmination of the regular season, the Gamecocks racked up several SEC awards, it was announced Sunday. McCaskill was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, Grace Fisk was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and Smith was named the SEC Coach of the Year.

McCaskill and Fisk made the All-SEC team, while Krzeczowski, Tatum Millazzo and Lindsey Lane were named to the All-SEC second team. The Gamecocks' five SEC honorees led the conference.

Three freshmen were named to the All-SEC Freshman Team: Ryan Gareis, Jackie Schaefer and Luciana Zullo. 

McCaskill, who was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year last season and the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2014, is the first player in program history to win three major SEC postseason awards. She joined Kayla Grimsley (2008-11) as the only Gamecocks to win back-to-back SEC Offensive Player of the Year awards.

The Gamecocks will look to continue their winning ways in the postseason when they travel to Orange Beach, Alabama, for the SEC Tournament on Oct. 31. 



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