COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Senior striker Savannah McCaskill scored on a header in the fourth minute to push South Carolina women's soccer past Santa Clara 1-0 in the third round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday afternoon at Stone Stadium. The Gamecocks (18-2-1) punched their ticket to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the second-straight year with the win over the Broncos.
Carolina, which has reached the quarterfinal round in three of the last four years, will now battle Florida this week for a spot in the 2017 Women's College Cup. The date and time of the All-SEC affair will be determined later.
The early tally from McCaskill was all the Gamecocks needed, as Carolina produced another clinical display on the defensive end. Santa Clara attempted three shots for the game and finished the afternoon with one attempt on frame. The Gamecocks withstood six corner kicks by the Broncos en route to their third-straight clean sheet in the NCAA Tournament.
McCaskill registered the decisive goal on a scoring play that began with a cross from the right side by sophomore defender Tatumn Milazzo. Milazzo's pass located Meaghan Carrigan at the far post, and the senior forward headed a shot that hit off the crossbar. The ensuing deflection fell to McCaskill, who one-timed a shot into the back of the net with her head.
With the goal, McCaskill set a new program record with 17 career game-winning tallies. The score pulled her even with fellow striker Elexa Bahr for the most goals (8) among Gamecocks this season.
Carolina pushed for a another score midway through the first half when Lauren Chang tried her luck from distance in the 32nd minute. The senior midfielder found a pocket of space and fired a shot from 22 yards out that required a diving save by Santa Clara goalkeeper Melissa Lowder at the right post. Bahr, who led the Gamecocks with three shots Sunday, saw a scoring opportunity in the 52nd minute when a loose ball fell to her near the right side of the box. The sophomore attacker alertly one-timed a shot that sent the ball wide right.
Krzeczowski held firm command of her box despite having to make just one save on the afternoon. She came off her line to knock away the ball on multiple Santa Clara corner kick attempts, including back-to-back set pieces from the Broncos in the 28th minute. The Buford, Ga., native stifled another scoring chance with less than 10 minutes to play when she again left the net to come up and secure the ball in the box following a free kick by Santa Clara.
Sunday's contest featured a physical battle, as both teams combined for 26 fouls. The Broncos committed 12 of their 15 fouls in the second half and registered just two shots over the final 45 minutes of the match. This weekend marked the first meeting between Carolina and Santa Clara.
"Again, we're very thankful to be sitting here after a win and moving on. I'm very proud of this team and their effort today against an extremely good Santa Clara team. Congratulations to them on their season and making it here. I know how it feels to go all the way across the country to play. It's their second game in two days and they battled and gave us everything they had. We're proud of how our players responded and found a way to win today. We know Florida well and they know us well. I think both teams will be prepared. It's getting yourself ready to play on game day. Our job is to recover and to continue to train and be sharp." - South Carolina women's soccer coach Shelley Smith
Savannah McCaskill headed in the decisive tally in the fourth minute to give Carolina the victory in round three. Sunday marked the second time this season the Chapin, S.C., native netted a goal in the opening five minutes of a game.
The Gamecock defense was brilliant against Santa Clara, limiting the Broncos to just three shots and one attempt on frame. Carolina has held each of its three opponents to three or less shots on goal in the NCAA Tournament.
South Carolina improved to 3-1 in the third round of the NCAA Tournament with Sunday's victory. The Gamecocks boast a record of 12-9-3 all-time in the NCAA postseason. Sunday's shutout came against a Santa Clara team that ranked sixth in NCAA Division I with 48 goals on the year. Carolina's victory snapped a nine-game winning streak for the Broncos. With her tally, Savannah McCaskill moved five points away from Carolina's all-time record of 119. The senior striker also became the third player in program history to reach 40 goals for her career. Gamecocks Meaghan Carrigan and Tatumn Milazzo registered their first point of the season Sunday after earning assists on the goal by McCaskill.
The Gamecocks play host to Florida in the NCAA Quarterfinals this week at Stone Stadium. The match will take place either Friday or Saturday, and the date and time of the contest will be determined at the end of this weekend's action.