The No. 12 South Carolina women's soccer team earned its first victory of the season on Sunday afternoon, defeating East Carolina 2-0 at Stone Stadium.
The Gamecocks relied on extended periods of possession, high chance creation and aggressive defense to maintain their undefeated start to the season.
"I'm excited for them, for the team, for their overall effort and to come away with a win and a shutout," head coach Shelley Smith said.
South Carolina placed pressure on East Carolina's defensive line early in the game, with two shots — one of which hit off the post — within six minutes of the opening whistle.
The Gamecocks continued to create goal opportunities and maintain possession in their attacking half until they finally found a breakthrough. Freshman forward Shae O'Rourke rifled the ball in the back of the net to give the Gamecocks a 1-0 lead.
South Carolina finished the half with a 6-2 shot advantage and continued its offensive momentum after the halftime break. Sophomore midfielder Megan Spiehs doubled the Gamecocks' lead five minutes into the second half after scoring off an in-swinging cross by junior forward Catherine Barry.
Smith said she was proud of the offense's ability to play aggressively with its wingers, create services and have numbers in the box to finish chances.
"We want to continue to do that and put the ball in dangerous areas, we also need to make sure we're aggressive in the box, we're getting our head across things, we're taking chances in there and that's something we're continuing to get better at," Smith said.
The Gamecocks stifled East Carolina's offense with relentless pressure on the defensive side of the ball, prompting takeaways and few goal-scoring opportunities inside their defensive half.
While South Carolina's offense mustered 10 shots, its defense only allowed four and still has yet to concede a goal this season.
"When we play opponents, they talk about how hard it is to break us down, and that's an important part of our play," Smith said. "We got to give ourselves a chance to win games ... first shutting down opponents, limiting their chances and then playing out of that."
Smith called upon 25 players during the game, giving many of the team's starters a breather after Thursday's hard-fought draw against No. 1 Florida State. She said it was beneficial to have players off the bench who can produce when starting players need some rest.
"The hope is that the team, when they go in there, they do a job," Smith said. "It doesn't matter what year you are — it's important that they go in and know their roles, and they're given the opportunity to take advantage of it."
South Carolina returns to action next Thursday when the team faces off against Connecticut on the road. Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.