The Daily Gamecock

South Carolina native McCaskill shines in first season with Gamecocks


That’s what freshman Savannah McCaskill thought to herself after scoring her first collegiate goal against Florida Gulf Coast in September. 

“It was kind of an ugly goal,” she said. “It wasn’t exactly pretty at all, but I had been working towards it.”

Ugly or not, it was the first goal in what's been an impressive first season for the South Carolina women's soccer team's star freshman.

When she was eight years old, McCaskill had set her sights on playing college soccer. Now, ten years later, she’s starting as a true freshman for the school that’s just a short car ride from her hometown of Chapin.

Through 17 games, McCaskill leads the Gamecocks with 12 points and is one of three South Carolina players who share the team-high with four goals, two of which came in the team’s upset of No. 5 Florida on October 16. 

A two-time South Carolina all-state honoree at Irmo High School and the No. 51-ranked high school prospect in the country according to Top Drawer Soccer, McCaskill can play multiple positions on the pitch according to head coach Shelley Smith and has already been asked to contribute immediately.

So far this season, Smith has been using McCaskill as a forward in an attacking role, using her ability to read defenses to give a struggling Gamecock offense a boost.

The two were able to develop their relationship for several years with U.S. Soccer’s Olympic Development Program (ODP), and Smith was able to get a first-hand look at what McCaskill  could bring to the table: a high soccer I.Q., a good work ethic and an ability to create opportunities on offense.

So far, all of those characteristics of McCaskill’s style of play have carried over to the college level.

“I think that she was overlooked a little bit, and I could always see the potential she had," Smith said. "She’s definitely been the player we knew we were recruiting and she has a lot of success ahead of her."

It was the relationship with Smith through the ODP program that, in part, led to McCaskill’s decision to stay close to home and pick South Carolina over other schools.

“[Smith] was my coach for the region team, and I loved her as a coach and a person," McCaskill said. "I just loved how the team as whole is such a family."

While the freshman has carried South Carolina at times with her goalscoring prowess, she’s just as dangerous when setting up teammates for offensive opportunities.

McCaskill’s four assists on the season are tied for the most on the team. 

“I’m more of a passer than anything,” she said. “Just to pass, move and set my teammates up to score goals I would say is kind of my sweet spot.”

Before she had even played her first college game, McCaskill was named to the SEC soccer coaches’ preseason watch list and she’s the first Gamecock to earn SEC Freshman of the Week honors twice in the same season. 

Still, there’s always a learning curve for freshmen, and McCaskill is no different.

“Definitely speed of play [is different],” McCaskill said. “Knowing when you can take touches and when you can’t, and then the physicality.”

Despite having to make adjustments to the college game, the fact that the hometown product has started in the first seventeen games of her college career shows how much Smith and the rest of the South Carolina coaching staff trust her.

“She’s a freshman that has come into a tough environment," Smith said. "We’ve put a lot on her to play right away for us and she’s done very well."