In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, six first half goals propelled No. 1 South Carolina over SWAC postseason champion Alabama State. South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith notched her 200th career victory with the program in the 7-0 win.
Offense is the best defense
Alabama State entered the game as the nation's top scoring offense, averaging nearly three goals per game. Six players on their roster entered the match having tallied at least five goals this season.
The Gamecocks neutralized the Hornets' greatest strength by minimizing their offensive possessions. Alabama State was constantly backed up against their own goal, and South Carolina outshot them to the tune of a 29-1 mark. The Hornets were unable to register a shot on goal.
Senior midfielder Chelsea Drennan, junior forward Savannah McCaskill and senior forward Sophie Groff combined for 15 total points. McCaskill and Drennan each paired a trio of assists with a goal, while Groff found the net twice and recorded one assist.
McCaskill continued her historic season and displayed the wide range of her talents in the opening round of the tournament. As a scorer she demonstrated finesse by tapping the ball into the net after being set up by Drennan and Groff at 8:13. Relying on a burst of speed, she outflanked a defender on the right wing at 12:38, assisting Groff for her first goal. Dribbling swiftly into the box at 16:32, senior forward Daija Griffin was able to convert on the scoring opportunity established by McCaskill.
Distributing scoring chances
After finding the net four times in the first 26 minutes of play, South Carolina rested Groff and McCaskill, two of their primary scoring threats. Scoring opportunities shifted to the Gamecocks' bench.
Assisted by Drennan, freshman Elexa Bahr scored her first collegiate goal from the top of the box at 34:09. Senior forward Claire Studebaker connected for her first goal since the 2014 season just before halftime.
Both scores merely provided insurance for the Gamecocks with their commanding lead, but South Carolina will look to depend on improved production from their bench down the stretch.
Smith first took over for the Gamecocks in 2001 and has guided the South Carolina to a winning record in 13 of her 16 seasons.
"It's not something I record or keep track of," said Smith on her 200th win. "But I'm thrilled to be able to continue to represent the University of South Carolina and put ourselves in the position to win games and to win championships."
On Smith's milestone, senior defender Paige Bendell said, "It's always great to be a part of her accomplishments. We've been through a lot with her."
Next in line
South Carolina will face the winner of a first round matchup between Colorado and Oklahoma State slated for Nov. 12. Starting times for the second round will be announced at a later date, but play is scheduled to resume on Nov. 18.