The Daily Gamecock

Gamecocks to battle UNC Wilmington

Impressive start for men’s soccer team helps achieve 1st top-25 ranking of the year

The No. 17 Gamecock men’s soccer team looks to build upon its undefeated record to four games, as it takes on UNC Wilmington at home on Friday at 7 p.m.

South Carolina (3-0-0) moved into the top-25 of the NSCAA Coaches’ Poll after a few strong performances, including a come-from-behind win in double overtime against Clemson.

Coming off a 2-0 victory against Mercer, the Gamecocks are well aware that the Seahawks (2-1-1) aren’t opponents to take lightly.

“I think Wilmington is a very good team. They’re very disciplined, really organized and a very difficult team to break down,” head coach Mark Berson said. “So that’s the type of challenge I think we’re going to face. We scrimmaged them in the spring in a really good game. We think they have good talent.”

With hopes of keeping their undefeated record in tact, sophomore defender Ive Burnett alluded to some of the factors that will result in South Carolina getting a victory.

“The keys to this weekend will be just playing our game, make sure we’re tracking our runners — like we’ve been the past couple games — and make sure we try to finish out early and not go into overtime,” Burnett said.

Although the Gamecocks looked good in the first three matches of the season, Burnett also pointed to some areas to work on that the team can make throughout the course of the season. One of those areas includes keeping things under control on defense.

“We just got to make it simple, that’s our game,” Burnett said. “We just have to keep it close, and keep it really tight, and play our game.”

Just three games into the season, Berson said he’s very pleased not only with the way the team has played with one another, but also knows there’s always room for improvement. After a young team last year, he said many players came back this year and picked things up quickly with good attitudes.

“They’ve worked really hard,” he said. “We’re getting our system in place and the guys know exactly what to do. As far as the things we need to work on, right now it’s eliminating mistakes, keeping possession, creating opportunities and finishing.”

Last season, the Gamecocks were trounced in their opening match of the Conference USA tournament against Tulsa, and with a tough conference schedule coming up in a few short weeks, they’ll need to continue playing as they have recently to clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s about just getting better every week,” Berson said. “We want to keep getting better and not fall back. We know that we’re going to have to play really well in conference, and we know that we have a number of very good non-conference teams on our schedule. The idea is to just get better each match. Each opponent is different. They provide a different set of problems, our guys study those problems and study those solutions, and we try to go out and put them into place.”

Burnett said he’s ready to keep grinding, since he knows the rest of the season won’t be a cakewalk.

“We just have to keep getting wins. It’s a grind and a battle,” he said. “We just have to keep playing simple and keep going forward, scoring goals — and it starts here at practice. What we do at practice turns over to what we do in the games.”