The Daily Gamecock

South Carolina seeks revenge against Georgia

	<p>Sophomore midfielder Raina Johnson leads South Carolina in goal scoring after netting her eighth of the year against Kentucky.</p>
Sophomore midfielder Raina Johnson leads South Carolina in goal scoring after netting her eighth of the year against Kentucky.

Gamecocks set for SEC tournament quarterfinals

If the South Carolina women’s soccer team is going to make a run at its first SEC Tournament title since 2009, it will first need to dish out some revenge today.

When the third-seeded Gamecocks take the field against the sixth-seeded Georgia Bulldogs in Orange Beach, Ala. in the SEC tournament quarterfinals, they will be looking to avenge a 2-0 loss suffered at Georgia Sept. 20. The defeat spoiled South Carolina’s undefeated 7-0-1 start to the season.

“We definitely remember that first loss,” senior midfielder Elizabeth Sinclair said. “They’re a good team but I think we’re definitely excited for a second go around at them.”

The Gamecocks (15-2-2, 8-2-1 SEC) finished the regular season with their best winning percentage (.842) in program history, capped off by a 2-1 victory over Kentucky on senior night. However, Texas A&M and Florida both won Thursday to grab a share of the SEC regular season title, leaving South Carolina a half game behind.

“One of our goals was to win the conference so it was a little disappointing,” Sinclair said. “I think it just gives us some motivation that we need to know every game is important, that we really need to go into each game with some intensity.”

In the senior night victory, sophomore midfielder Raina Johnson provided her 5th game-winning goal of the year in the 83rd minute. The goal was Johnson’s eighth of the season, the most of any Gamecock.

With the strides she’s made this season, Johnson symbolizes the overall improvement the team has undergone from where they were a year ago. In 2012, the Gamecocks finished with their worst mark since 2005 and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. Johnson said she took it upon herself to bring South Carolina back to glory.

“I wasn’t satisfied,” Johnson said. “I knew that I had to step it up this season, everyone knew that they had to step it up so that’s what I did: worked hard from last fall and all the way through spring and summer and was able to see some results.”

Johnson has often been able to provide a spark for a South Carolina offense that is otherwise pedestrian by the numbers. The Gamecocks are 10th out of 14 SEC teams in scoring offense, but lead the league and rank 15th in the nation with a .559 Goals-Against Average.
However, coach Shelley Smith is not concerned with the numbers. The first and only priority is to play good, team soccer.

“We focus as a whole. Our entire group plays defense and then we all attack and we’ve just been solid defensively,” Smith said. “Our attack is different that we’re just better organized. We possess well, we create opportunities, we play nice soccer.”

Monday, junior keeper Sabrina D’Angelo was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. The Canadian national has allowed just 11 goals and recorded 10 shutouts during the 2013 campaign.

D’Angelo also won a share of the award in 2011 as a freshman. She also earned a spot on the All-SEC First Team, her second time receiving the distinction, and is joined on the list by redshirt junior defender Taylor Leach. Freshman midfielder Chelsea Drennan was also recognized for her efforts this season, earning a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team.

Today’s game can be seen at 3:30 p.m. ET on the SEC Digital Network.

With revenge on the Gamecocks’ minds and no added incentive needed in today’s quarterfinal matchup, Smith said her team has been eager and raring to go all week.

“Having a second chance, an opportunity to beat a team that beat you early on is a great opportunity,” she said. “And we’re looking forward to it.”


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