COLUMBIA, S.C. -- No. 4 South Carolina women's soccer posted a 2-0 win over UCF in its season opener Friday night at Stone Stadium. Sophomore forward Elexa Bahr and freshman midfielder Lauren Chang tallied goals for the Gamecocks, who moved to 9-0 all-time when opening a season at home.
Carolina seized momentum in the 15th minute when UCF midfielder Bridget Callahan was issued a red card while trying to chase down Gamecock senior striker Savannah McCaskill in the attacking third. Callahan earned the foul after grabbing the jersey of McCaskill, whose speed caused problems for the Knights in the early going.
UCF was forced to go the rest of the way with a player down, and the Gamecocks quickly took advantage less than 10 minutes later on the counterattack. Carolina senior midfielder Lindsey Lane's pass found McCaskill just past midfield, and the All-American striker advanced the ball before threading a beautiful pass to Bahr near the top of the box. Bahr took one dribble and fired a shot into the bottom left corner of the net past UCF goalkeeper Vera Varis. The tally marked the second of Bahr's career for the Gamecocks.
Carolina doubled its lead following a great display of footwork and passing from a trio of freshmen in the 79th minute. Newcomer Luciana Zullo sparked the goal, making a great move to free herself near the right side before finding fellow freshman Breukelen Woodard at the top of the box. Woodard quickly slipped the ball to midfielder Lauren Chang, who rifled it home with a great effort from 18 yards out. Zullo and Woodard were both credited with assists on the scoring play that put the Gamecocks in complete control.
McCaskill nearly opened the scoring twice in the beginning stages with a pair of shots that missed wide right, and Bahr almost found the back of the net after one-timing a great volley from Lane near the far post in the 21st minute. The Buford, Ga., native's header attempt was hit hard into the mitts of Varis and the danger was cleared.
Carolina continued to produce scoring chances midway thought the second period, starting in the 67th minute when Bahr found freshman midfielder Bianca Galassini in the heart of the box. Bahr's delivery hit off the foot of Galassini, and UCF keeper Chloe N'Gazi was there to scoop up the loose ball. Two minutes later, McCaskill sent in a great ball from the right side that set up freshman striker Ryan Gareis for a one-time attempt near goal. Her shot called for a quality save, and a quick reaction from N'Gazi prevented the goal.
The Knights' best opportunity of the night came in the 53rd minute when UCF midfielder Morgan Ferrara fired a shot near the top of the box that deflected off the hands of Carolina goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski. Fellow midfielder Julia Moore of the Knights raced to the loose ball before hitting a shot that missed wide left.
The Gamecocks boasted a 16-5 shot advantage for the match and held UCF to just one attempt on frame. Bahr, Chang and Gareis all put two shots on goal for Carolina, which attempted four corners on the night.
Sophomore forward Elexa Bahr's goal in the 24th minute capped off an early momentum swing for the Gamecocks that was sparked by UCF's first-half red card. Both of Bahr's two shots on the night were on target.
The Gamecocks outshot the Knights 11-1 in the first half after holding a majority of possession through the first 45 minutes. Six different Carolina players attempted a shot in the first period.
With Friday's win, Carolina moved to 11-2-4 in season openers under coach Shelley Smith. The Gamecocks now sport an all-time mark of 3-0-0 against the Knights. Tonight's 2-0 win marked Carolina's largest margin of victory over UCF. Attacker Elexa Bahr's tally in the 24th minute resulted in the sophomore's first career game-winner for the Gamecocks. Carolina's six attempts on goal for the match were one more than UCF's entire shot total (5). UP NEXT
South Carolina returns to action in two days when it hosts Florida Gulf Coast on Sun., Aug. 20. Kickoff against the Eagles at Stone Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.