Senior midfielder Chelsea Drennan’s penalty kick in the 69th minute propelled No. 1 seed South Carolina women’s soccer to a 1-0 victory over fourth-seeded BYU in the third round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday night at Stone Stadium. With the win, the third-ranked Gamecocks (21-1-1) advanced to the Elite Eight for the second time in the last three years after notching their fifth victory over a ranked opponent this season. Fourth-ranked BYU ended its season at 18-3-1 following the loss.
Carolina was awarded a penalty kick after junior midfielder Savannah McCaskill found some space and charged into the left side of the box, where she was immediately taken down by a BYU defender. Drennan lined up for the spot kick, and fired a shot into the right side past BYU goalkeeper Hannah Clark to put the Gamecocks in control with just over 20 minutes to play.
The Gamecocks withstood BYU’s bid for an equalizer down the stretch, starting in the 82nd minute when the Cougars were awarded a free kick near midfield. The ball in from the set piece floated dangerously into the box, but Carolina freshman goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski alertly came off her line to grab it before BYU’s Nadia Gomes was able to attempt a header. In the final minute, Krzeczowski again denied a scoring chance from Gomes, snatching the ball at the near post to prevent a shot from the Cougar forward.
Krzeczowski finished the match with three saves for the Gamecocks, who put nine attempts on target. BYU outshot Carolina 14-13 for the match, and the Cougars totaled eight stops, including three team saves. Both teams accumulated double-digit fouls in Saturday’s top-five battle, and BYU sported a 5-2 advantage in corner kicks.
After BYU maintained much of the possession early, Carolina began to see chances down the stretch of the first half and put three headers on frame that were cleared off the line. In the 24th minute, McCaskill’s free kick from midfield found senior Paige Bendell, whose header was blocked at the goal line. Bendell came inches away from putting Carolina on the board four minutes later when her back-to-back headers called for teams saves following a Gamecock corner kick.
In the 38th minute, a defensive miscue left Carolina senior forward Claire Studebaker with an empty net opportunity. Her shot sailed towards net before a BYU defender again denied a goal to keep the match scoreless. The Gamecocks put seven shots on frame in the first half and limited the Cougars to one attempt on target in the opening 45 minutes.
Following Drennan’s tally off the penalty kick, senior striker Sophie Groff nearly doubled the advantage when she saw Clark again come off her line. Her shot sent the ball dipping towards the top of the net, but Clark was able to recover to make a leaping save and knock the ball out of bounds.
Clark collected five saves in the match, while Krzeczowski improved to 18-1-1 on the year and earned her 11th shutout of 2016. Saturday marked the first meeting between the Gamecocks and Cougars, and the result snapped BYU’s seven-match winning streak.
" We are thrilled to be up here after a win tonight and moving on. I’m proud of this team; I feel like it’s probably a broken record. They’ve been amazing all year; they just find a way to win games. We just definitely played one of the best teams in the country in BYU. They are full of talent, and, like I said, their draw was tough, and they were excellent. I’m proud of our team and how they handled such a tough opponent and found a way to win.” – South Carolina women’s soccer coach Shelley Smith
Senior midfielder Chelsea Drennan converted her penalty kick from the spot to put the Gamecocks in front late in the match. The captain has converted all three of her penalty kicks this season.
The Gamecocks held the Cougars to just three attempts on frame. BYU entered the match ranked third in Division I with 58 goals on the year.
>> South Carolina improved to 7-2-1 in NCAA Tournament play when facing an opponent at Stone Stadium.
>> The Gamecocks have won three of their last four matches against teams ranked in the top five. All three victories have come at home.
>> South Carolina has yet to trail in a match at Stone Stadium this season. The Gamecocks have outscored opponents 37-3 at home in 2016.
>> The Gamecocks, who picked up their 14th shutout of the year on Saturday, now sit one clean sheet short of the program single-season record.
>> Carolina improved to 2-1 in the NCAA Sweet 16 with this weekend’s win. Next week will mark the program’s second appearance in the Elite Eight.
South Carolina will host second-seeded North Carolina in the Elite Eight at 6 p.m. Friday at Stone Stadium. The Tar Heels edged third-seeded Clemson, 1-0, in a Sweet Sixteen contest.
FROM USC MEDIA RELATIONS