The South Carolina women’s soccer team exited Orange Beach, Alabama, on Friday after a 1-0 loss to No. 7 Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament semifinals.
The defeat marked the second consecutive year that the Aggies ousted the Gamecocks in the semifinals on their way to the title.
Head coach Shelley Smith said the match, which was decided by a goal in the 87th minute, simply left her team unsatisfied.
“I'm proud of the girls, but obviously, I'm disappointed with the result,” Smith said. “We wanted to make the finals and put ourselves in position to win a championship.”
Although South Carolina (13-5-3) fell short of its second SEC tournament title in program history, the team showed once again that it can hang with anybody on the pitch.
Smith credited A&M for their execution, saying her team was unable to convert on key opportunities needed to defeat the top team in the conference.
“I'm proud of the heart and fight we saw from this team,” Smith said. “I thought we battled. We didn't have the best first half, but we came back and battled in the second half to get in a position to win the game. We just couldn't find the back of the net on a couple of opportunities.”
South Carolina held a 10-8 advantage in shots for the match, including four on goal compared to the Aggies’ two. Freshman midfielder Savannah McCaskill led the Gamecock offense with three shots, two of which were on goal.
And while the Aggies executed when it mattered, they were also afforded more chances.
The Gamecocks only registered two corner kicks while the Aggies had six. For a team that's been so successful on set pieces in the last few years, the disadvantage proved to be the difference, as the game-winner came off the Aggies’ final corner kick of the night.
South Carolina is now 0-5-1 all-time against the Aggies.
Moving forward, South Carolina will look to improve upon its body of work in the NCAA tournament, which begins Nov. 14. The pairings will be released Monday afternoon.
After a 13-game slate against arguably the nation’s deepest and toughest conference, the Gamecocks should be battle-ready in the hopes of making a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
South Carolina lost in the second round last year to Stanford, marking the second time in three years that the Cardinal ended the Gamecocks’ season.
All of South Carolina’s losses this season have been 1-0 results. The difference in each loss has been a matter of execution in key opportunities, meaning Smith will have her team working on fine-tuning their runs and timing in the week leading up to the opener.
If the Gamecocks are to get hot at the right time, execution is a must. Smith said she likes where her team is as a whole but acknowledged they need to get better in the next few days.
“I thought overall, we played very well,” Smith said. “We'll build off of that going into NCAA's next week.”