COLUMBIA, S.C. - Top-seeded South Carolina women's soccer posted a dominant 3-0 victory over Alabama State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament Friday night at Stone Stadium. The Gamecocks, who moved to 16-2-1 on the season with the win, received goals from freshmen Ryan Gareis and Bianca Galassini and sophomore Elexa Bahr.
Carolina outshot the Lady Hornets 31-2 and attempted each of the game's 13 corner kicks after spending the majority of the contest in their attacking third.
Gareis opened the scoring in the third minute after deflecting the ball into the net following a shot from the top of the box by sophomore defender Grace Fisk. Fisk's shot headed towards the goal line, where Gareis used her thigh to misdirect the ball past Alabama State keeper Gianna Guyot and put the Gamecocks ahead 1-0 in the early going.
Carolina pushed its advantage to 2-0 in the 22nd minute when Galassini scored from close range following a cross from the right side. Bahr's pass located Galassini in the heart of the box, and the freshman midfielder split a pair of defenders before slotting it home from seven yards away.
The Gamecocks continued to press for more in the second half and registered a set piece goal in the 50th minute. Carolina senior midfielder Lindsey Lane's corner kick fell to Bahr, and the sophomore striker converted at the far post after instinctively one-timing a shot with her right foot.
Carolina was relentless out of the gate, creating multiple chances after Gareis put her team on the board. The Gamecocks saw two great chances in the 19th minute on a corner kick by Lane, as senior forward Savannah McCaskill and Gareis both put headers on target that were saved by Guyot. Carolina finished the first half with a commanding 18-2 shot advantage.
The Gamecocks continued to produce scoring opportunities down the stretch of the match, starting in the 55th minute when Lane tried her luck from distance. The Lusby, Md., native created some space and hit a bending attempt from 23 yards away that called for a diving stop by Guyot. Carolina freshman midfielder Lauren Chang nearly pushed the lead to 4-0 in the 66th minute when she rifled a shot from the top of the box that hit off the right post.
Sophomore Mikayla Krzeczowski and freshman Lexi McMullen both saw time in net for the Gamecocks, who didn't allow a shot on goal in the match. Guyot registered nine saves and Alabama State finished the night with 11 fouls compared to just five for Carolina.
With the win, the Gamecocks improved to 2-0-0 all-time against the Lady Hornets. Carolina moved past Alabama State 7-0 in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Stone Stadium.
"We played well tonight and did what we needed to do to advance. We had several players contribute and get minutes. It was an overall good team effort. We should have had more balls go in the net. That was a little frustrating but luckily a few went in - enough to win. We created the chances, and that's what is important." - South Carolina women's soccer coach Shelley Smith
Carolina freshman midfielder Bianca Galassini's goal in the 22nd minute put the Gamecocks in complete control midway through the first half. The tally was the fourth of the season for the Frankfort, Ill., native.
The Gamecock defense stood tall and didn't concede a shot on target Friday. The Lady Hornets did not record a shot over the final 45 minutes of the game.
• Carolina improved to 8-3-1 in the NCAA Tournament when facing a team at Stone Stadium. The Gamecocks have now advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in four of the last five years.
• Friday marked the second time this season the Gamecocks didn't allow a shot on target.
• Carolina's 31 shots against the Lady Hornets marked a season high.
• Elexa Bahr's three points against Alabama State were the most in a match for her this season. The sophomore striker ranks second on the team with 17 points in 2017.
The Gamecocks will host either Wisconsin or Toledo in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Fri., Nov. 17. The time of the match at Stone Stadium will be determined following the conclusion of this weekend's first-round action.