No. 19 South Carolina women’s soccer lost 1-0 to No. 12 Tennessee at Stone Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Gamecocks suffered their second straight conference loss and now hold a 9-4 (4-2 SEC) record on the season.
“I thought they played well. We found some space and were able to do some things and create, but we just didn’t have that final — obviously, putting the ball in the back of the net; that’s disappointing, but we competed,” head coach Shelley Smith said postgame.
A largely even first half saw each team record four shots; however, the defenses held strong and the game was scoreless at halftime. The biggest chance of the first half for either squad came from a swift counterattack down the left by the Gamecocks, who had an improved showing from their midweek loss.
“If you look at our performance on Thursday, it just wasn’t good enough from the start, but today, we actually did come out well. We won our 50/50 balls, took chances and, unfortunately, we played them off the field for 90 minutes, but in the end, they got a goal, and we didn’t,” graduate midfielder Lauren Chang said.
Graduate forward Ryan Gareis received the ball at midfield and drove into space before lobbing a cross to the top of the box where sophomore forward Catherine Barry’s header left the defender behind. Her second touch took her past the Tennessee goalkeeper, who had no choice but to bring her down and concede a penalty in the process.
Senior midfielder Jyllissa Harris couldn't take advantage of the golden opportunity in the 16th minute for South Carolina, as her low driven penalty shot found the wrong side of the left post and play resumed.
Smith commented after the loss on the importance of her squad putting the ball in the back of the net when opportunities arise.
“The finish, the product of winning the game, finding a way to win, is huge. I think they’ve done that at times this year; for sure, it has to be more consistent.”
The Gamecocks were anchored defensively by junior goalkeeper Heather Hinz, who recorded three saves including a leaping effort just after the hour mark of the match that kept the game on even terms. The defense was left exposed towards the end of the game as the home team pushed forward for a late winner allowing two Tennessee fast breaks in the final 10 minutes, the latter being decisive.
“We got burned on something that we might’ve been able to prevent in the moment if we had been a little bit tighter together as a group,” Smith said. “But we were pushing and pressing and wanting to score and feeling like we were going to get one.”
Freshman midfielder Taylor Huff scored for the Volunteers in the 87th minute with a powerful shot from outside the box that beat a defense with tired legs from a midweek away game and the outstretched hand of Hinz and earned her team its 12th win of the season.
Tennessee’s defense has only conceded six goals through 13 games this season, and junior goalkeeper Lindsey Romig added four saves to her season total on the night in route to her ninth clean sheet of the year.
“This team has battled, and they battled today better than the last game for the 90 minutes, so it was an improvement, and that’s what you want to see,” Smith said. “These last few games, we’ve got to be prepared; every time you face an SEC team, it’s going to be a battle.”
The Gamecocks return to action at home on Friday, Oct. 15, against Georgia, where they will look to rediscover their winning form as the SEC Tournament approaches.