USC surges to 2nd round of NCAAs

The State - - Sports - BY GREG HADLEY ghadley@thes­tate.com

Through one half at Stone Sta­dium on Fri­day night, South Carolina women’s soc­cer was dom­i­nat­ing in just about ev­ery way against UNC-Greens­boro in the first round of the NCAA tour­na­ment.

But the Game­cocks were tied with the Spar­tans af­ter 45 min­utes, and it seemed as though USC might be stymied, or at least strug­gling, with bend-but-don’t-break de­fense and op­por­tunis­tic of­fense.

Af­ter the break, coach Shel­ley Smith’s squad changed that, bombarding UNCG and cruis­ing to a 3-1 win to ad­vance to the round of 32.

“When we started the game, it was slim in shot pro­duc­tion. And we had the ball a lot, but we weren’t dan­ger­ous enough,” Smith said. “We talked about it all year. They came out in the se­cond half and played much bet­ter. We talk about, we need to do that for 90 min­utes. We need to go at teams and put it to­gether, we can’t wait. (UNC-Greens­boro) did a good job to come back and tie the game, and I thought we re­sponded well in that se­cond half and were def­i­nitely more ag­gres­sive in the of­fen­sive third.”

It wasn’t that the first half of play was ter­ri­ble for the Game­cocks, sopho­more mid­fielder Lau­ren Chang said. They sim­ply weren’t be­ing ag­gres­sive enough and lost fo­cus at times.

“We were play­ing de­cent soc­cer, we were play­ing good pos­ses­sion style, we just knew we had to take our chances mov­ing for­ward,” Chang said.

The Game­cocks took their first lead of the night in the 32nd minute on a long shot from the right side of box by ju­nior for­ward Elexa Bahr that found the op­po­site side net­ting of the goal.

The Spar­tans re­sponded quickly, how­ever. In the 39th minute, USC goal­keeper Mikayla Krzec­zowski ap-

peared to mis­play a cross, leav­ing a UNCG at­tacker with an open net.

Her shot was de­flected out of bounds by a de­fender, and on the en­sur­ing cor­ner, a se­quence ended with UNC-Greens­boro se­nior mid­fielder Heida Vi­dars­dot­tir slot­ting home a vol­ley in the 40th minute.

“We had to clean up what we should have done in the back. We shouldn’t have let that goal hap­pen, and what led to the goal was not good, so that was some­thing we needed to do a bet­ter of stay­ing or­ga­nized and stay­ing sharp,” Smith said.

Af­ter ad­dress­ing the de­fen­sive lapse and the lack of ag­gres­sion at the break, South Carolina re­took the lead for good in the 50th minute when fresh­man mid­fielder Jyl­lissa Har­ris found Chang for a header from close range that went it.

Har­ris added in­sur­ance 11 min­utes later af­ter a free kick was blocked by the UNCG wall, then served back in for an easy header past the keeper.

The Game­cocks fin­ished the game with 25 shots, their most since last sea­son’s NCAA tour­na­ment opener, and eight on goal. Now, they will face Penn State next Fri­day in the round of 32. The lo­ca­tion will be de­pen­dent on No. 2 seed West Vir­ginia’s first round game. If the Moun­taineers win, the Game­cocks’ next two rounds would be played there. If West Vir­ginia is up­set, then Carolina would host.

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