A back-and-forth conference division clash between South Carolina and Old Dominion ended in dramatic fashion Saturday night, as the Gamecocks scored a late go-ahead goal to clinch a 1-0 victory.
The match was decided by sophomore midfielder Ethan Dekel Daks, whose free kick in the last minute gave the Gamecocks its second win of four conference matches in Sun Belt play.
The Monarchs spent much of the first half in South Carolina's defensive half, generating quality chances and earning five corner kicks.
South Carolina's defense remained sharp, despite being under immense pressure. The team held Old Dominion to only two shots — neither of which were on target.
"It was a great performance by the back four. They absorbed the pressure, and the front two certainly put pressure on their backs to hurry their passes," head coach Tony Annan said. "We were under pressure from their balls in behind us, and we dealt with it very well."
Positive play by the defense was not the only highlight in the first half for the Gamecocks, as it created opportunities at the other end of the pitch.
South Carolina accumulated 10 shots and forced six saves out of Old Dominion's sophomore goalkeeper Michael Statham. The Gamecocks appeared dangerous and exerted control during the first half, but the first 45 minutes ultimately ended in a 0-0 stalemate as neither team was able to convert any of its chances.
The second half was a much different story for the Gamecocks, who were able to hold possession for most of the half. Despite this, the Monarchs played a much more aggressive style as it searched for the match's opening goal.
Old Dominion generated multiple scoring chances and controlled the game's tempo after the halftime break, but South Carolina's defense continued to play a pivotal role in the match. Sophomore goalkeeper Ben Alexander, who would finish the match with two saves, came up with many crucial stops to keep the game scoreless.
"One of them looked like it could have been offside, but I was just like you can't really stop and wait and see what happens, you just have to go," Alexander said. "So I went, thankfully it was on the side, made the save. But yeah, but it was good. I was really just thinking that is was icing on the cake."
Despite the Monarchs having the better chances throughout the match, the Gamecocks would eventually break the deadlock with just five seconds remaining. Dekel Daks, who lined up his shot well outside the 18-yard box, sealed the victory with a curling free kick that landed in the upper right corner, sending his teammates and fans in Stone Stadium into a frenzy.
"Honestly just, I was just thinking five seconds left to actually score a free kick, which isn't — it's pretty rare," Dekel Daks said. "Fortunately, it went in and just pure emotions celebrating with the guys, it was a nice feeling. Especially because we haven't many moments like that this season, so to actually get a moment where we can all celebrate last minute, pure enjoyment, that's great."
With the win, the Gamecocks improved to 4-5-2 overall (2-1-1 Sun Belt) on the season. South Carolina will wrap up its three-game home stand against the West Virginia Mountaineers at 7 p.m. on Thursday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.