The NCAA’s selection show Monday set the 2021 NCAA women’s soccer tournament bracket. South Carolina (11-6-1) will travel to Chapel Hill to face No. 2 seed North Carolina (12-2-3) at the end of the week.
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to be playing still at this time of year. I think we’ve matched up well with them in the past,” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said after the announcement.
After finishing fourth in the Southeastern Conference regular season standings, South Carolina seems to be confident in its resume.
“I feel like our whole team and our coaches and staff feel like we deserved it, and we were confident we were going to make it,” senior midfielder Jyllissa Harris said.
Smith reflected on her team’s learning curve through the second half of the season as it won its final two contests after going four straight games without a win.
“It’s an expectation to be here, but they’ve learned this year with the ups and downs, it’s not a given so now we’re going to embrace this opportunity and make the most of it,” Smith said.
South Carolina boasts a wealth of NCAA Tournament experience with three seniors and a number of graduate students benefitting from an extra year of eligibility who were on the team for the Gamecocks run to the College Cup in 2017.
“You rely on leaders every year, and to have players that have been there — it does make a difference for sure,” Smith said. “And they know how special the tournament is with the opportunities that are there ahead of you.”
The Gamecocks will rely heavily on their leadership, as they head into a round one rivalry matchup against the Tarheels.
“If I was somebody else, I wouldn’t want to play us,” Harris said. “It’s the Carolinas. It’s always a rivalry; it’s always a good game; and no game in the NCAA tournament is easy for anybody, obviously. But it’s a close game, we don’t have to travel too far and I think we’re all just super pumped about it."
The round of 64 contest will be played between Nov. 12 and 14.