The USC women’s soccer team won the 2009 SEC Tournament championship with a dramatic 8-7 edge in penalty kicks over LSU at the Orange Beach Sportsplex. The title is the first in program history and the first SEC title won by a South Carolina team since the baseball team claimed the 2004 tournament title.
“It’s unbelievable,” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. “It just shows the heart these guys have had. You don’t want it to be too dramatic, but it’s well deserved today. They played their hearts out, battled and never gave up. That’s what this game is all about. I’m so happy for the seniors and the whole team. They deserve that championship.”
Tournament MVP Blakely Mattern scored the tying goal with two minutes remaining, and the Gamecocks (17-3-2) held on for the first penalty kick shootout game in an SEC final since the 2003 season.
“I’m speechless,” Mattern said. “My team has fought so hard since we’ve been here and all season to get to this point. To be down a goal and to come back with two minutes left shows heart. That’s what we’ve shown all week. I’m so proud of our team and how hard we worked to never give up. I knew it was in us and I knew we could win. I couldn’t be happier of this senior class that has put in so much for four years.”
The game marks South Carolina’s first game in penalty kicks since the team dropped a 4-1 margin to Duke in the 2007 NCAA Tournament first round. The last time an SEC final was decided by penalty kicks was the 2003 final when Tennessee defeated Florida by a 7-6 edge in the shootout.
Four Gamecocks were named to the All-tournament team as South Carolina earns the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and a likely national seed. In addition to Mattern, Kayla Grimsley, Kim Miller and Lindsay Small were all named to the team to cap the historic weekend for the program. With the advancement, South Carolina has avenged all three losses it earned during the season by defeating Georgia, Florida and advancing past LSU in the five-day tournament.
“We have good leadership and experience,” Smith said. “They learned from the mistakes they made through the season. The losses make you stronger if you deal with them properly. They reacted the way they needed to and took care of business here at the SEC Tournament. We couldn’t be prouder as a coaching staff.”