South Carolina women’s soccer advanced to the SEC tournament semifinals after defeating Missouri 3-2 in Orange Beach, Alabama. South Carolina struck early and took a two-goal lead into the half but had to hold off a comeback bid from Missouri in the second half.
“Obviously, glad to be advancing here. It’s competitive,” head coach Shelley Smith said after the win.
The Gamecocks’ first goal came from senior midfielder Lauren Chang in the fifth minute after a corner kick was deflected to the top of the box. Chang threaded the ball through a host of players and past Missouri’s goalkeeper.
In the 21st minute, South Carolina struck again, this time from well outside the box as junior defender Sutton Jones lobbed a ball into the back of the net on an assist from freshman forward Catherine Barry.
At halftime, the Gamecocks were winning 2-0 and doubled up Missouri's shot attempts with six to the Tigers’ three. Freshman defender Hallie Meadows was injured in the first half after colliding with a Missouri player and knocking heads, and she did not return to the game.
South Carolina opened the second half strong, scoring in the 47th minute on a goal from Barry, her fourth of the season and third against Missouri on the year. However, the 3-0 lead did not last long.
“It’s what we expect in this tournament. It’s always going to be difficult,” Smith said. “We got to work, but we got to stick to our game, and we didn’t do that so much in that second half, so we’ll learn from that and improve next time we come out.”
Missouri senior midfielder Bella Alessi scored her team’s first goal of the night less than 20 seconds after the Gamecocks took a three-goal lead, taking advantage of South Carolina’s shorthanded defense.
The Tigers closed the gap even more on a 60th minute goal from junior forward Julissa Cisneros but could not find the back of the net for an equalizer despite recording nine shots in the second half.
Heather Hinz started in goal for the Gamecocks, and the sophomore goalkeeper finished with four saves and two goals allowed.
“Just glad we scored one more than they did,” Smith said.
South Carolina will continue its title defense against No. 1 seed Arkansas on November 19 at 7 p.m.
The Gamecocks defeated Arkansas in the regular season in Fayetteville, and the rematch will determine who earns an opportunity to play for the SEC Tournament championship against the winner of No. 3 seed Texas A&M and No. 7 seed Vanderbilt.