The No. 7 South Carolina women’s soccer team tied Tennessee on Sunday night in a frustrating game at Stone Stadium in its third conference game of the season.
Tennessee dominated the Gamecocks through both halves and nearly got the win when freshman forward Kate Runyon scored a long-awaited goal in the 76th minute. The Volunteers’ victory was spoiled by senior forward Catherine Barry when she scored a penalty with four minutes to go.
The Gamecocks and Volunteers started the match playing with high intensity and pressure. Neither team was able to establish possession through the first 15 minutes until Tennessee settled in.
“We know they’re very good in the front half. They’ve got some good transition players and some good attackers out wide,” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. “We knew we’d have to be good defensively in the wide areas.”
The Volunteers spent the majority of the first half going to goal and did not play much behind the midway line. The team had success separating from South Carolina’s defense to get shots off but couldn’t find the frame. It got off eight shots but only one was on target.
“I think we created chances, and we had opportunities to get at them and get in behind,” Barry said. “Basically, they came out, and they were what we expected them to be. I think it just took us too long to figure that out.”
South Carolina saw bright spots on offense with through balls coming from the midfield to split Tennessee’s defense on counterattacks. Barry and sophomore forward Shae O’Rourke were able to connect multiple times but couldn’t find the back of the net.
Sophomore defender Micah Bryant called the pressure the defense faced from Tennessee “a lot.” She thought the long balls over the top and through balls in the channels worked well for the Gamecocks, but the team struggled to execute once they moved the ball forward.
The Gamecocks began to establish possession in the 34th minute when Tennessee’s sophomore defender Ally Brown went down with a non-contact injury and was helped off the field.
Tennessee immediately felt the impact of losing Brown when South Carolina’s offense hammered three consecutive shots on frame once play resumed. Regardless of the Gamecocks' renewed offensive energy and the Volunteers' constant berating, the two teams were tied at the half.
Tennessee started the second half in a similar fashion to their style of play in the first — fast and intense. Again, the Volunteers were not able to get many shots on goal, but the team had South Carolina pinned back in its own half.
“They put a lot of numbers forward, so we ended up having to play a bit more direct and longer because if you put that much of their team in our half, we have to try to bypass all that pressure,” Smith said.
South Carolina’s fifth-year goalkeeper Heather Hinz only had to make four saves during the game, but she saw a total of 16 shots near the Gamecocks' goal.
“Something I always think about is, in those moments, my job is to be an outlet and an option for them to relieve some pressure,” Barry said. “So being able to work back, help them, even if it’s a short clearance … just seeing if I can be a source of relief.”
The Volunteers finally found the back of the net with 14 minutes left in the game when Runyon connected on her shot from close range right in front of the goal.
The Gamecocks spent the remainder of the match scrambling to create chances on goal, while simultaneously trying to slow down Tennessee’s overwhelming offense. Senior forward Corinna Zullo nearly scored from a short distance to tie the game with seven minutes left but was unable to beat out the Volunteers redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Ally Zazzara.
Barry finally succeeded when Tennessee fouled South Carolina in the box on a late corner kick, and she was able to convert the penalty. Neither team had enough time left to secure the win, so they had to settle with splitting the points.
Next, South Carolina takes on Auburn on Sept. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in Alabama.