South Carolina found its strength on offense against UNC-Greensboro Friday night during the start of the NCCA Tournament at Stone Stadium. The Gamecocks won 3-1 to advance to the second round of the tournament.
At the start, it took some time for the Gamecocks to put together shape and speed up top.
Forward Elexa Bahr helped South Carolina find the momentum that it needed on offense. Bahr scored the first goal of the match from a strike in the right side of the box in the 31st minute.
“It just shows that she is meant to be out there," Lauren Chang said about her teammate. "Everyone who is out there, when you are on the field, we’re making differences and she just happened to make a really big difference today.”
Home-field advantage wasn't the only thing going for the Gamecocks as they dominated in the back of the net.
UNC-Greensboro fought back in the 39th minute of the first half, scoring its lone goal on the night and making the game a 1-1 tie.
However, South Carolina responded quickly going into the second half and found some quick feet to match UNC-Greensboro’s intensity.
“When we started the game, it was slim in shot production and we had the ball a lot but we weren’t dangerous enough ... they came out in the second half and played much better,” head coach Shelley Smith said.
Sophomore Lauren Chang scored her first career goal in the NCAA Tournament after heading in a ball from teammate Jyllissa Harris in the 50th minute, Chang’s eighth goal of the season.
“From my perspective, I saw [Harris] get the ball and the back line was stepping out, but they weren’t really man-marking or anything,” Chang said. "They weren’t talking, communicating, so I thought that I would take advantage of that and try to get my head on it and luckily it was a perfect ball.”
Harris said that she found the opportunity to get around and deliver Chang the ball near the far post.
The Gamecocks were able to use this goal to shift their mentality and find opportunities on frame.
Harris notched the Gamecocks' final goal of the match in the 60th minute, securing the 3-1 victory for South Carolina. She believes that the game-changer in the second half was a faster pace on offense.
“I think definitely more urgency, especially in the second half, when we look to go to goal as fast we can and we catch them on their heels,” Harris said. “So it’s better when we play fast and I think that we're doing a lot better.”
The Gamecocks logged a season high 25 shots during this match.
“We are playing with more confidence. We are taking risks. We’re trying to get it behind them. We had some offside calls, which is I know it sucks to be offsides, but it's a good thing because we are testing the line," Chang said. "So, I think confidence was a really big factor into our offensive play.”
South Carolina advanced to the second round of the tournament for the third-straight season and will face Penn State next Friday, Nov. 16. The time and location are to be determined.