ORANGE BEACH, Ala. -- South Carolina junior forward Savannah McCaskill tallied two brilliant second-half goals to push the top-seeded Gamecocks past eighth-seeded Texas A&M 2-1 in the SEC quarterfinals Wednesday night at Orange Beach Sports Complex. The victory extended No. 2 Carolina's (18-0-1) program-best winning streak to 18 matches and advanced the Gamecocks into the league's semifinal round for the fifth time in the last eight years. The Aggies fell to 11-8-1 overall with the loss.
After heading into halftime down 1-0, South Carolina notched the equalizer in the 58th minute when senior center back Kaleigh Kurtz's long pass from midfield found McCaskill near the top of the box. The striker collected the pass and alertly chipped the ball into the back of the net after seeing Aggie goalkeeper Danielle Rice come off her line. With the tally, the Chapin, S.C., native set a new program single-season record with 15 goals.
McCaskill's magic in the box continued seven minutes later, as the forward scored a near-identical goal to push Carolina's advantage to two in the 65th minute. Gamecock freshman goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski earned the assist on the scoring play, as her pass from the opposite end of the field located McCaskill. The striker again displayed tremendous touch, floating a shot into the net past Rice. Krzeczowski's assist was the first of her career.
Carolina controlled possession for much of the second half, and Texas A&M was limited to just three shots on goal in the final period. The Gamecocks ended the match with a 16-8 shot advantage and put six attempts on frame. Each team attempted five corner kicks, while Krzeczowski totaled three saves to remain perfect (15-0-1) on the year.
Seniors Chelsea Drennan and Sophie Groff both saw quality scoring chances in the second half, starting in the 49th minute. Senior attacker Daija Griffin raced around the Aggie defense and sent in a dangerous cross into the box from the right side. Groff one-time the delivery, sending a blistering shot that fell right into the hands of Rice. Drennan nearly notched a goal in between McCaskill's tallies when she received a pass near the right side of the box and ripped a shot that called for a diving save. Freshman attacker Elexa Bahr and junior midfielder Lindsey also saw scoring chances in the second period, as both Gamecocks fired shots in the second half that were blocked.
The Aggies opened the scoring in the 24th minute when junior forward Haley Pounds floated a through pass into the box to midfielder Emily Bates, who deposited the ball into the net from close range. The goal marked the third first-half goal conceded by the Gamecocks this season.
Carolina saw its best two scoring chances of the first half in the opening 15 minutes of the match. In the 11th minute, Drennan found McCaskill on the counter attack, and the forward used her speed to elude the defense and fire a shot from the right side of the box. Her attempt created a rebound that sent the ball back to McCaskill, who slipped a pass to Griffin. Griffin took aim at goal, and her shot went past Aggie goalkeeper Danielle Rice and dinged off the right post. Less than two minutes later, another pass from McCaskill nearly put the Gamecocks on the board. Her delivery from near midfield connected with senior forward Groff, who charged into the left side of the box before rifling a shot that called for a difficult save by Rice the near post. South Carolina boasted a 5-4 shot advantage in the first half.