Columbia, SC - Freshman Alexa Newfield scored just 3:13 into the game and that goal proved to the game-winner as the No. 20 Georgia soccer team posted a 1-0 upset over 14th-ranked South Carolina on the road Friday night at Eugene E. Stone Stadium in Columbia, S.C. The shutout was the fourth in a row for the Bulldogs as keeper Ashley Baker has now gone 479:25 without allowing a goal.
Tonight’s game was a battle between the final two unbeaten squads in the conference, but the Bulldogs come out of it on the same side as they improve to 4-0-3 in league play and 9-2-4 overall. The Gamecocks now stand at 11-3-2 (5-1-1).
Georgia is 4-1-1 on the road this season and is unbeaten in its last nine outings dating back to Sept. 10 at Stanford.
Georgia moves to 12-4-3 all-time against South Carolina while tonight was the first road win for the Bulldogs over USC since the 2002 season.
The Bulldogs made up some ground in the SEC with tonight’s win. Florida and South Carolina are now tied atop the Eastern Division with 16 points apiece while Georgia is in third with 14 and Tennessee – which lost to the Gators tonight in Gainesville – is in fourth with 13 points.
“I just took the ball upfield and kept going with the space they gave me,” Newfield said of her goal. “There was room for a shot, so I took it and luckily end up with the goal. This means everything for us that we’ve been working for since preseason. We needed a big win out of this weekend.”
South Carolina came out on fire and immediately threatened with some early shots. Baker was able to prevent the Gamecocks from taking an early lead by punching one chance over the goal to set up a corner that proved futile for the home team.
The Bulldogs countered soon after, though, and with just over three minutes elapsed Newfield found herself with space in the midfield. The rookie carried it across the center stripe and into Gamecock territory. As she approached the 18, the Atlanta native buried a shot over South Carolina keeper into the upper 90 for her fifth goal of the season to give Georgia the 1-0 lead, which would eventually stand up as the lone score of the day for either side. It was the second straight game in which Newfield scored in the first four minutes, as she put the Bulldogs in front last Sunday at Mississippi State just 3:09 into that game.
Baker was again big for Georgia in goal, and as the Bulldogs gave up a string of corners and free kicks the redshirt sophomore rose to the task. Perhaps her biggest save of the game came when USC’s Elizabeth Sinclair got an open shot off a set piece that sent Baker horizontal to her left and she was able to come up with the huge diving stop to keep it out of the goal.
The Bulldogs had an opportunity to make it 2-0 when Alex Hooker found herself on the edge of the six and out of reach of keeper Mollie Patton, but the junior’s shot went high with 10 to go before the break.
With shots knotted at six apiece, the Bulldogs went into the locker room holding the 1-0 lead while South Carolina was trailing at the half for just the second time this season.
South Carolina came out hungry in the second, but the Georgia defense rose to the task despite the Gamecocks’ 7-3 lead in the shot column through the final 45:00.
With 17:00 left, Kelli Corless and Susannah Dennis helped break up a big South Carolina run. With 11:30 to go, Corless was whistled for a foul and the Gamecocks’ and the SEC’s leading scorer Kayla Grimsley stepped in for a free kick just on the outside of the 18, but her shot sailed high as the second half wore on.
Newfield took a free kick from the right wing but her shot sailed high with under 10 go and the Bulldogs clinging to the lead.
Baker and the defense clamped down through the final 10 despite late chances for the Gamecocks. As time expired, Baker had six saves to her name in securing her eighth shutout of the year. South Carolina led in shots, 13-9, at the final whistle but failed to find the scoreboard – shut out for just the third time this season as their five-game winning streak came to a halt.
Newfield is now only 10 shots shy of the Georgia single-season shots record as she has 66 to her name with still a good ways to go in 2010.
“We came in with a lot of confidence and we walk out with a lot of confidence,” said head coach Steve Holeman. “South Carolina is a great team and this is a great win for us. It’s a win we needed. They don’t lose a lot of home matches so this is a great win.”
The Bulldogs are still facing a tall task as they travel to No. 13 Florida this Sunday for a 2 p.m. TV match-up with the Gators in Gainesville. The game will be televised live on CSS while fans can still keep up with the action as usual on Georgiadogs.com. Kevin Copp will provide live audio in addition to live stats and the Georgia Soccer Live Blog.