The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: No. 4 Gamecock women's soccer beats Furman, extends season-opening undefeated run

<p>FILE— Women's soccer team exits the field following a victory against FSU on Thursday afternoon, August 18, 2022.</p>
FILE— Women's soccer team exits the field following a victory against FSU on Thursday afternoon, August 18, 2022.

No. 4 South Carolina women's soccer scored three goals in route to securing a victory against Furman at home on Sunday. The Gamecocks were on the front foot from the first minute to the last, consistently pinning the visitors back in their own half throughout the 3-0 home victory. 

"Every time we step on the field, we're learning something about ourselves — we're looking to improve upon the last performance,” head coach Shelley Smith said after the win. “We don't want to be saying the same things and that's what the non-conference is about as we get ready for SEC play.” 

Despite not being able to convert chances in a scoreless first half, the home team was always in control of the match and held the large majority of possession. At the half, the Gamecocks held an 11 to one shot advantage over the Paladins, a lead the team would further extend after halftime.

"We just said we've got to be better in our execution, our movement off the ball, our aggressiveness," Smith said about her halftime message. "You can't wait for things to happen, that's something we've been working on and I thought in that second half we did a good job to be on the front foot and it showed and we put the ball in the back of the net because of it."

The Gamecocks finally found a breakthrough in the 57th minute after fifth year defender Jyllissa Harris fired a rebound into the top of the net. The crowd had barely finished celebrating the opening goal when, less than a minute later, junior forward Catherine Barry found space at the top of the box and left her defender behind with a fake shot before drilling her shot low into the bottom left corner. 

South Carolina was dominant in the second half offensively and finished the game with advantages in total shots — 26 to three — shots on goal — 10 to two — and corner kicks, earning 10 without conceding any to Furman.

After the home win, Smith made a point to credit the entire team's work ethic and energy that lead to near constant pressure in the attacking half.

"We rotated a lot of people, it's more than we normally would rotate and on a hot Sunday afternoon, sometimes it's nice to be able to get some fresh legs in there," Smith said. "We're going to use that depth and give people opportunities and that's what we did today." 

Senior goalkeeper Heather Hinz was not called into action often on Sunday, but earned the clean sheet — her fifth of the season — and recorded two saves.  Ahead of her, fifth year defender Jyllissa Harris played a big role in holding possession for South Carolina and was only substituted once the win was secure. 

"Our back line, goalkeeper and then everyone in front has to do a job to limit opportunities for a team," Smith said. "So, I credit the entire team when we talk about defensive shutouts but the leadership that Jyllissa Harris shows in the back has been huge for us." 

In the 84th minute, freshman forward Shae O'Rourke scored South Carolina's third and final goal of the game to secure the win. It was the second goal of the season for O'Rourke in only her sixth career game. 

"Shae is a tremendous player, we know from recruiting her what she's capable of, she scores goals and she showed today she'll pounce on opportunities — she creates," Smith said. "She's doing what we thought she could, and the more she gets used to the collegiate level, which is a big change for a lot of freshmen, she'll get more and more minutes." 

The No. 4 Gamecocks (4-0-2) will travel to Blacksburg, Virginia for its next game which will be a matchup with Virginia Tech on Thursday at 6 p.m.