COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Top-seeded South Carolina women's soccer punched its first ticket to the College Cup after topping Florida 2-0 in the NCAA Quarterfinals Friday night at Stone Stadium. Sophomore defender Grace Fisk and senior midfielder Lindsey Lane tallied goals to spark the Gamecocks in the All-SEC affair.
Friday's victory marked a breakthrough win for a Carolina team that made its third NCAA Elite Eight appearance in the last four years. The Gamecock defense stood tall and refused to concede a goal against the Gators, who boasted a 13-7 shot advantage in the match.
Carolina will now face No. 1 seeded Stanford in the NCAA Semifinals on Fri., Dec. 1, in Orlando, Fla. The Cardinal posted a 4-0 victory over second-seeded Penn State Friday.
Carolina opened the scoring early for the second-straight match, finding the back of the net in the 13th minute off a corner kick. Lane's service into the box found Fisk at the far post, and the center back used her head to drive the ball into the ground before it slipped inside the post. The tally marked the first shot attempt of the match for Carolina and gave the Bromley, London, native her second goal of the season.
Lane provided the insurance goal in the 77th minute on a brilliant strike from outside the box. Gamecock midfielder Breukelen Woodard set up the scoring play when she collected a pass from fellow freshman Luciana Zullo and slipped the ball to Lane. The senior captain took one dribble before rifling a shot into the heart of the net past the outstretched arms of Florida goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese.
The Gators pressed for an equalizer out of the break and controlled possession throughout the opening stages of the second half. Carolina's back line hung tough and blocked a pair of shots in the 48th minute before Gamecock sophomore goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski delivered a save moments later. Krzeczowski and the Carolina defense remained busy in the second period against a Florida team that attempted seven corner kicks over the final 45 minutes of the game. The Gators saw their best chance of the night in the 73rd minute when midfielder Gabby Seiler found some space near the left side and ripped a well-hit shot on target. Krzeczowski was in perfect position to make the save, and she knocked the shot away at the top left corner of the net to preserve Carolina's lead.
The Gamecocks generated two quality scoring chances in the second half, starting in 52nd minute when senior midfielder Dominique Babbitt found freshman attacker Ryan Gareis on the counterattack. Gareis collected the pass and raced into the box before firing a shot that missed wide left. Thirteen minutes later, Zullo intercepted a pass and alertly fed McCaskill at the top of the attacking third. The senior standout charged towards the goal and hit a shot that sent the ball over the crossbar.
Carolina needed just two shots on frame to produce their pair of tallies Friday, while the Gators put four of their 13 shots on target. Florida finished with a 9-6 advantage in corner kicks, and both teams committed five fouls on the night. Krzeczowski totaled four saves en route to her 14th shutout of the season.
With the win over the 16th-ranked Gators, the Gamecocks notched their sixth victory against a top-25 opponent this season. Carolina improved to 5-2 in its last seven matches against Florida.
"We as a program, as a staff, as players, as everyone involved, are so excited to be moving on. Achieving this is something we have never been able to do before in our program's history and it is an amazing feeling. We are definitely thrilled and love to represent the University of South Carolina in the Final Four. We were thrilled that the SEC was going to be represented in the College Cup which I think is well deserved in our conference. We are glad to be representing, but congratulations to Florida who gave it everything they had and obviously showed how good of a team they are. Obviously we are thrilled and congratulations to Florida on a great season." -- South Carolina women's soccer coach Shelley Smith
Senior midfielder Lindsey Lane provided the exclamation point after scoring from outside the box to push the Gamecock lead to 2-0 in the 74th minute. Carolina's two goals Friday were the most conceded by Florida in the NCAA Tournament.
Florida managed to put just four of its 13 shot attempts on frame. The Carolina defense delivered six blocks for the game, including four in the second half.
South Carolina's NCAA semifinal match against Stanford next Friday (Dec. 1) will be contested at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Fla. The match, which will take place at either 5 or 7:30 p.m. ET, will air on ESPNU.