South Carolina women’s soccer went the distance against Georgia before winning the penalty shootout 4-1 on Thursday night in the SEC tournament semifinals.
After 110 minutes of play, the Gamecocks and Bulldogs were deadlocked at one goal each until a pair of shootout saves from senior goalkeeper Heather Hinz helped send South Carolina to the SEC tournament championship game.
“We executed, and we knew what we were capable of there, so for us that was just going out and doing a job. Ready to go to the final, we’re really excited,” junior forward Cat Barry said after the win.
South Carolina controlled much of the tempo in a slow first half, leading the Bulldogs five to two in shots at the break. The Gamecocks were forced to retreat defensively for a 10-minute stretch late in the opening half but were able to weather the storm and at halftime, the match was scoreless.
Barry scored 53 minutes into the game to give the Gamecocks the lead. After dribbling around Georgia's freshman goalkeeper Jordan Brown, Barry fired the ball into the far corner for her team-leading seventh of the season.
“We want to prove that we’re capable of competing with anyone, and we’ve gotten things firing at the right times,” Barry said. “And I think we probably could’ve had a couple more today to ice that out, and we’ll want those chances back. But at the end of the day, it’s about finding a way to win in the postseason, and so that’s what we did today.”
South Carolina continued to press for a second goal after the breakthrough but focused on maintaining defensive structure to preserve the lead. However, with a little over 15 minutes remaining in the game, senior defender Abby Hugo was whistled for a handball in the box, and the referee awarded a penalty kick to Georgia.
Graduate forward Dani Murguia converted the opportunity for the Bulldogs and tied the game at 1-1, putting the pressure back on South Carolina to find a winner.
The final quarter-hour of the game did not produce a goal and neither did the pair of 10-minute overtime periods, so the semifinal was decided from the penalty spot. South Carolina kicked first and scored on all four of its turns while Georgia scored on the first try and then saw its next two attempts saved by Hinz.
“You win these tournaments by pushing through when things get hard, maybe when things don’t go your way. So, we’ve prepared for this, we're ready for this, and our team stepped up and executed. That was a full team effort from our bench to our PK takers to Heather in goal,” Barry said.
The star forward converted the first for the Gamecocks, followed by fifth-year defender Jyllissa Harris who emphatically hit her shot into the upper middle of the goal. Redshirt senior midfielder Samantha Chang made the third from the spot, and senior defender Camryn Dixon completed the victory for South Carolina.
Thursday’s result sets up a title matchup between No. 1 seed Alabama and No. 2 seed South Carolina, regular season winners of the SEC West and East respectively.
“We want to compete for trophies, that’s what this program’s always been about, that’s been the standard. And so, we want to continue to meet and exceed that standard — that’ll be what Sunday’s about,” Barry said.
The 2022 SEC tournament championship game will be played Sunday, Nov. 6 at 1 p.m. and will stream on the SEC Network.
Editor's Note: Camryn Dixon is the assistant sports editor of The Daily Gamecock.