The Daily Gamecock

Gamecocks perfect at home

South Carolina rises three sports in NSCAA Poll

For the South Carolina women’s soccer team, there truly is no place like home.

The Gamecocks (14-2-2, 7-2-1 SEC) have allowed just three goals in nine home games this season. Junior keeper Sabrina D’Angelo has posted six shutouts at home and has yet to give up multiple goals in any home game. South Carolina is a perfect 9-0 at Stone Stadium in 2013 and the team will return to its home grounds tonight to close out the season against Kentucky.

In addition to having a chance to claim their second SEC regular season title in three years, the Gamecocks are looking to send their seniors out in style as they celebrate senior night. Danielle Au, Gabrielle Gilbert, Samantha Gonzalez, Sam McGowan, Abby Sams, Elizabeth Sinclair, Christine Watts and Rae Wilson will all be honored before the match.

“It’s a little bittersweet. It’s just that night you always hear about and you help the other seniors celebrate, and when it’s finally you, it just got here way too quickly,” Sinclair said. “I’m excited. It’s a big game and we need to do well in it but at the same time, I don’t want it to end.”

South Carolina can win the SEC regular season title with a win and losses by both Texas A&M and Florida, which both currently possess 8-2 conference records. Kentucky (13-4-1, 7-3-0 SEC) has a chance themselves to win a share of the title if they defeat South Carolina and Texas A&M and Florida both lose. In other words, the top of the SEC standings is by no means set in stone.

Following a weekend sweep of Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, South Carolina rose from No. 13 to No. 10 in the NSCAA Coaches Poll. The team hopes to carry the offensive momentum straight into Thursday’s contest after outshooting its opponents 38-9 over the weekend.

“I think our offense is doing a lot better so we just kind of need to be creative around them and try to get our shots off,” Au said. “I’m sure our defense can handle whatever they throw at us offensively.”

Au is second on the team with five goals scored this season and tied for second with 12 points. The senior forward also leads the team in shots and shots on goal.

Since 2006, South Carolina is the only team that has been able to steal the SEC regular season crown away from Florida when the Gamecocks took the title in 2011. Sinclair said being sophomores on that team has prepared this year’s seniors even better for this opportunity.

Although the end of the season is an afterthought at the moment, coach Shelley Smith acknowledged the importance of her seniors to the team’s success.

“They’ve had to stick together as a group and they’ve done that,” Smith said. “The team you see this year is because the senior group has been the leaders we’ve needed to step up and show this is how we do it. They’ve been great.”

Despite the potential distractions that could arise from senior night festivities and the emotions associated with big games, Smith believes the Gamecocks will have their eyes on the prize when they set foot on the field tonight.

“It’s a goal that they set out every year to do and it means the world to them,” Smith said. “We’re in a position and we’re a good enough team to do that and so our goal is always to compete for that championship.”