2009 South Carolina Gamecocks Soccer Preview
Wow, big step up by the Lady Gamecocks soccer team in 2009. South Carolina won the 2009 SEC Soccer Tournament (beating LSU in the finals). That was the first conference championship ever for South Carolina soccer and the first for any South Carolina athletic team since their 2004 SEC Baseball Title. As we said last year, the solid 2008 season turned out to be a building block for a great 2009.
The Lady Gamecocks had, in 2008, what would have to be considered by most to be a pretty successful season overall, particularly in light of the difficulty of playing in the SEC. Indeed, the year that South Carolina produced in 2008 can certainly be viewed as a building block for 2009.
The Lady Gamecocks managed an 11-7-4 record overall, a 5-4-2 within the conference. The Lady Gamecocks feasted on their non-conference opponents. In compiling that record, the Lady Gamecocks established their home turf and their home field as a place where other teams have difficulty coming in and winning, putting up a record overall of 8-1-2 at home. The successes the team garnered in their non-conference matchups led to success once conference play began, specifically into victories over rivals Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss, and competitive matches against LSU (they tied) and #7 Florida (a 1-0 loss).
Kayla Grimsley was the most valuable player on offense for the Lady Gamecocks in 2008. She had eight goals (double the second leading goal scorer for the team), and a total of 22 points (again, exactly double that of the second leading point total on the team). Only two other players managed double digit point totals. Those players were Kim Miller and Brooke Jacobs, who managed 11 and 10 points respectively. Virtually all of the goaltending duties for the season were managed by Roya Mojarab, who only allowed 0.96 goals per game.
The Lady Gamecocks began competition play in soccer back in 1995. During its inaugural season the team managed a competent record of 8-10, however, the team struggled to 0-7 record in the Southeastern Conference. 1997 brought more of the same, specifically, competitive records overall, yet underwhelming SEC records. The 1998 represented a significant step for South Carolina soccer, in that was the first season that the team avoided a sub .500 record in conference, going 4-4 in SEC play. Then, 1999 saw yet another milestone achieved, when the Lady Gamecocks went 14-6 overall, and 6-3 in the SEC, its first time with a winning record in the conference.
However the high times were not long lived, and in 2000, the team fell back and fell back hard to a record of 4-16, and a conference record of 1-8. Struggles that season led to the departure of longtime coach Sue Kelly and the arrival of new Coach Shelley Smith. Smith went on over the next few years had varying levels of success with the soccer program. Some highlights were 2002 season, in which the team went 13-6 (4-3 in the SEC), and 2006, when the team went 11-6-5 (5-2-4 SEC).
South Carolina has a challenge ahead of it if it hopes to get to an elite level in the SEC. That said, it is a confident and capable program that has shown flashes, and surely can't be counted out when it comes to looking at who can contend within the conference each year.
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