No. 12 South Carolina women’s soccer drew 0-0 with the defending national champion and current No. 1 Florida State Seminoles in its season opener at home on Thursday night.
The Gamecocks overcame 18 shots on the night from their top-ranked opponent — including a barrage from senior midfielder Jenna Nighswonger, who recorded eight shots, three of which were on goal.
“They played as a team when they were called upon, they did the job we asked and that’s all I can ask as a coach, so really proud of the effort,” head coach Shelley Smith said.
Florida State settled into the game quickly and pressured the home defense through the first 15 minutes. The Gamecocks grew into the contest and manufactured multiple chances in the first half, but the visitors were the more dangerous team, taking an 8-2 shot advantage into the halftime break.
The second half brought end-to-end action. While South Carolina had its chances, Florida State goalkeeper Cristina Roque needed just three saves in the game to secure the clean sheet.
Florida State continued to gain attacking momentum but South Carolina’s Heather Hinz recorded six saves to earn her first clean sheet of the season. The senior goalkeeper repeatedly weathered pressure to keep the ball out of her goal and required attention from the medical staff multiple times.
“You have to be brave, and Heather has goals of playing professionally and that’s a good test for her,” Smith said.
Smith said South Carolina’s defense, led by senior defender Jyllissa Harris, was physical. The Gamecocks recorded nine fouls on the night, limiting Florida State’s chances.
“Jyllissa is a tremendous player, leader, she comes out of nowhere sometimes when you think we’re beat, and she’ll find a way,” Smith said.
Smith also applauded freshman midfielder Gracie Falla for slotting in at center back alongside Harris, a pairing she thought impacted the result.
The first athletic event of the new school year drew a sellout crowd leaving some students and fans in standing only section and building an atmosphere that encouraged the Gamecocks' defensive effort.
“This was a big game, really happy the fans came out and supported us and, you know, we hope to give them some exciting games here all season,” Smith said.
South Carolina returns to action on Sunday when it hosts East Carolina University at 2 p.m. Smith said the Gamecocks will have to rely on their depth due to the quick turnaround between games.