McCaskill leading in assists, still working on first career goal
With two games remaining on the nonconference schedule, the No. 16 South Carolina women’s soccer team is looking to fine-tune its form before beginning SEC games next weekend.
The last chance to prepare for conference play comes this weekend, when the Gamecocks travel to Florida to take on South Florida and Florida Gulf Coast.
After a five-game homestand, South Carolina (5-1) hits the road for the first time since its season opener. The Gamecocks play South Florida Friday at 7 p.m., and face Florida Gulf Coast Sunday at 2 p.m.
Senior defender Taylor Leach noted the importance of getting off to a hot start in both contests to combat the disadvantage of not playing in front of the Stone Stadium faithful.
“Going on the road, it’s always hard, not even with the crowd aspect, but just being away and not in front of our fans,” Leach said. “I think if we take the crowd out of it and play our game, we’ll be fine.”
The road trip also provides a chance for individual players to continue to settle in and feel comfortable heading into the tougher part of their schedule.
Despite leading the team in shots and shots on goal, freshman midfielder Savannah McCaskill has yet to register a goal in the team’s first six games.
But if McCaskill can net one this weekend, she says she will feel more at ease moving ahead.
“I’m really looking forward a lot, thinking about it,” McCaskill said. “But once I get the first one I think it will ease the pressure, so hopefully, I can get the first one soon.”
While peace of mind may be an incentive to find the back of the net this weekend before the team’s SEC opener, McCaskill has been constantly involved in the Gamecocks’ offensive attack. In addition to her team-leading scoring chances, the freshman is second in assists on the team with two, including one that set up the game-winning goal Sunday.
Even though the Chapin, South Carolina, native said she would love to have scored by now, she also understands the process and progress that she has made thus far.
“I think game by game I’m getting better,” McCaskill said. “I’m getting used to it, fitting in with the team better as games go by.”
In its last two games, South Carolina has registered 15 shots on goal but only netted two of them.
It seems like the Gamecocks are just a little luck and timing away from an offensive explosion.
Head coach Shelley Smith expressed satisfaction with the evolution of her team’s offensive consistency throughout the early portion of the season.
“We’ve made good steps forward,” Smith said. “Players are connecting a bit better. They’ve all done a good job and the effort’s always been there.”
The team has been stifling on the defensive side of the ball, outside of the first half against Clemson last Friday. Smith expects the team that has played so well for five and a half games to show up this weekend.
On paper, South Carolina seems to match up well with this weekend’s opponents. South Florida (3-2) has been shut out twice and recorded multiple goals just once in their first five games.
Florida Gulf Coast, on the other hand, has a little more offensive firepower. The Eagles (4-1) have netted six goals in their last two contests— both resulting in wins— but gave up as many chances as they achieved.
If the Gamecocks can control possession and put pressure on the opposition’s back line, they figure to have the upper hand in both matches.
Above all else, Smith wants to finish the weekend prepared for the SEC schedule that lies ahead.
“It’s working together as a group that makes us the strongest,” Smith said. “You try to get to a point where once you’re going into SEC play, you’ve really got some things together like a well-oiled machine.”