The Daily Gamecock

Women's soccer pursues first road win against Clemson


South Carolina women’s soccer team travels to Tiger Town on Friday to play Clemson in their first away game of the season.

Last weekend the Gamecocks won their season opener 4-1 against Northeastern and extended their record to 2-0 after beating Oklahoma in double overtime 2-1.

Head coach Shelley Smith has worked with her team since Sunday on what exactly they need to change up in order to come home with a victory against No. 23 Clemson. In terms of strategy, Smith says the focus is on "looking at the opponent as the game gets closer and working on organization of our defense and our offensive decisions under pressure."

In the preseason, South Carolina was ranked 11th by the National Soccer Coaching Association of America (NSCAA) and now has moved to eighth after its winning weekend. Moving up three spots in the NSCAA is a step forward for these Gamecocks as their season has only just begun. 

Last season the Gamecocks went 14-6-5 overall and 4-2-3 away. Compared to the record of 8-3-1 for its home standings, South Carolina may have a difficult run traveling for the first time this season.

The Tigers were expected to open their season against Texas last Friday, but the match was cancelled due to inclement weather. Instead, Clemson took on College of Charleston, winning 2-0. The goals were scored by freshmen Patrice DiPasquale and Lauren Harkes, their first collegiate goals.

Hosting the Gamecocks at Historic Riggs Field will give Clemson its first home game of the season.

These two teams met twice last year. The first meeting in Columbia, South Carolina, resulted in a 1-0 Clemson victory. The second meeting was the first round of the NCAA tournament and also at Stone Stadium. That game went into triple overtime with the Gamecocks advancing on penalty kicks 4-3. South Carolina was eliminated after its first Elite Eight appearance in history losing to Florida State 5-0.

Possible starters for South Carolina in goal include senior Caroline Kelly and sophomore Abbey Crider. Kelly is credited with two wins and two saves this year for the Gamecocks. With seniority and more playing time, Kelly will most likely start over Crider in Friday’s game. 

Smith knows the game of soccer is extremely psychological, requiring the players to guess where opponents will go next and try to be one step ahead.

“I hope the players that are active can perform and change things that need to be changed in a flip moment,” Smith said.

Both seniors Caroline Gray and Raina Johnson know how to start off the season the right way. Both team members scored in the first game against Northeastern. These two versatile players showed they could play just about anywhere on the field, with Johnson a forward who helps out in the back and Gray usually a defender who also plays at the top of the field.

One player in particular to look out for would be junior Chelsea Drennan. She had two assists and one goal in the first game against Northeastern. The South Carolina native received 2014 SEC All-Tournament Team recognition and was on the SEC Preseason Watch List.

Clemson-South Carolina games almost always feel bigger due to the rivalry. Smith knows the rivalry is coming this Friday and could be a key factor in how well both teams perform.

“It’s part of culture here for our university and fans for both teams,” Smith said. “The people that aren’t from Carolina who play here learn about it, so it becomes a definite rivalry for all sports here at South Carolina against Clemson.”

The Gamecocks will return home on Sunday to host Coastal Carolina at 6 p.m. in Stone Stadium. The main focus for this weekend is adding another win to their record, especially in their first road game.

“The big thing is making sure we do the things we need to do in order to win the game,” Smith said. “Focus on our game and try to find the couple of weaknesses we need to expose from them and hopefully put the ball in the back of the net before they do.”