The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: No. 15 South Carolina women's soccer team's defensive battle against Ole Miss ends in stalemate

<p>Senior forward Corinna Zullo dribbles the ball downfield in a game against Ole Miss at Stone Stadium on Oct. 13, 2023. The Gamecocks drew 0-0 to the Rebels.</p>
Senior forward Corinna Zullo dribbles the ball downfield in a game against Ole Miss at Stone Stadium on Oct. 13, 2023. The Gamecocks drew 0-0 to the Rebels.

The No. 15 South Carolina women's soccer team's Friday night clash against Ole Miss ended 0-0, despite both teams having a commanding presence for parts of the match.

The Gamecocks struggled to find its footing throughout the match and was unable to convert in the final third, resulting in its second consecutive draw.

"I think it was disappointing because we couldn't find the back of the net. We had some decent chances and weren't able to put them away, and then we didn't create enough overall. And I think we can be better in those moments, but we did a good job to obviously keep them off getting many opportunities offensively," head coach Shelly Smith said. "So, unfortunately, that's what ends in a tie if you don't do what you need to do in the final third." 

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The first half was an evenly-matched affair, as both teams created a number of scoring opportunities. The Gamecocks and Rebels tallied 12 total shots. Both teams forced three saves out of each other's goalkeeper during the first 45 minutes. 

The Gamecocks held more possession in the first half and created most of its offensive success through the counterattacks, creating a numerical advantage multiple times as the team attacked Ole Miss' goal. South Carolina's forwards could not convert any chances, despite their pressure, as the Rebels' defense stood strong.

In contrast to the Gamecocks' counterattacking style of play, Ole Miss found early success by finding the passing gaps in the defense. The Rebels were able to piece together quick passes and attempted shots on goal whenever it found a large enough window to shoot, but fifth-year goalkeeper Heather Hinz came up with saves to keep the match scoreless going into halftime.

After the halftime whistle, Ole Miss got off to a flying start. For the first 25 minutes of the second half, the Rebels managed to pin the Gamecocks deep inside their own half, controlling a majority of the possession and creating almost all of the quality scoring chances early on. The Gamecocks' defense stayed resilient, though, keeping the score 0-0.

The Gamecocks settled into the match around the 70th minute and flipped the script on Ole Miss for the remaining 20 minutes of the match.

South Carolina found its offensive rhythm from there and created a flurry of scoring opportunities that kept the Ole Miss backline on its heels. But the Gamecocks could not find a way past the Rebels' junior goalkeeper Shu Ohba, who made six saves during the match. 

"We were just trying really hard to get it forward and connect and just figure out a way to get it in the goal," senior forward Corinna Zullo said. "We weren't successful, but I think (we) did a good effort at attempting to do that. And I think that's really all it was, just really want that goal." 

South Carolina's late offensive efforts were ultimately not enough, as the match ended a scoreless stalemate, the Gamecocks' fourth draw in its last six matches. 

"You have to remember it's not a loss," Smith said. "It just feels like a loss because you know you probably could've and should've won if you've done a little bit better in some things. And we're capable, so this team needs to just decide to execute in their moments." 

The Gamecocks (9-1-5, 3-0-4 SEC) will travel to College Station, Texas, to take on Texas A&M next Thursday. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m., and the game will be broadcasted on SEC Network+.