“These seniors really have elevated this program and set a wonderful standard for our next group, not only for their production on the field, but with what they’ve done with community service and in the classroom. They’ve really helped establish a set of core values within the team.” - Head Coach Mark Berson
The South Carolina men's soccer team was poised for a strong 2016 season, as it welcomed back 17 letterwinners, eight starters and seven seniors from a team that advanced to the second round of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Championship. This year's squad began the season ranked No. 24 in the country in the NSCAA Top-25 poll.
After beginning the season 0-2 and falling out of the top-25, the Gamecocks were able to rattle off eight wins in their next 10 games to move to 8-3-1 on the season. Carolina would go on to finish the regular season 10-6-1 overall and 5-2-1 in Conference USA play, earning the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.
The Gamecocks earned an at-large selection to the NCAA Tournament, marking the programs 22nd all-time postseason appearance. Carolina hosted Mercer in the opening round and earned one more victory in front of its home fans at the friendly confines of Stone Stadium. The Gamecocks beat the Bears 1-0 to advance.
In the round of 32, Carolina was matched with a familiar foe, instate rival Clemson, who earned the No. 3 national seed. The Gamecocks took a late 1-0 lead after scoring in the 71st minute, but the Tigers were able to score the game-tying goal in the 86th minute and the game-winner in the 93rd minute to advance.
BY THE NUMBERS
1 • South Carolina was the ONLY school in the country to have both its men's and women's teams in the top 10 for national attendance average.
5 • Senior midfielder Danny Deakin had five game-winning goals, which ranked 13th in the NCAA Division I.
8 • Carolina had an eight-match unbeaten streak that lasted over a month, beginning with a 2-1 overtime victory vs. Georgia Southern on Sept. 14. The team outscored opponents 15-4 during the streak.
9 • A program record NINE Gamecocks earned all-conference recognition from Conference USA. Deakin highlighted that group with his second straight first team selection after scoring 20 points (7G, 6A). He was also named to the C-USA All-Academic Team with a 3.932 cumulative GPA.
22 • Berson is tied with Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski for the most NCAA Tournament appearances all-time with 22.
31 • 2016 marked the 31st time under head coach Mark Berson Carolina recorded double-digit wins.
300 • The Gamecocks won their 300th match at Stone Stadium on Sept. 24 after downing Georgia State 3-1.
SENIOR NIGHT TO REMEMBER
It was a special Senior Night at Stone Stadium, as South Carolina picked up its biggest win of the year, knocking off No. 12 Kentucky 2-1 in the regular season finale. The crucial victory gave the Gamecocks the No. 2 seed in the C-USA Tournament.
Carolina struck first in the match, as sophomore Bjorn Gudjonsson, a Second Team All-C-USA selection, scored his seventh goal of the season in the 44th minute. The Wildcats evened the score in the 50th minute on a PK goal by Jordan Wilson.
After a flurry of chances, Deakin sent a beautiful corner into the box in the 86th minute. Sophomore defender Andre Streete headed it in for the game-winner and his first career goal.
Four Gamecocks were selected to the CoSIDA Academic All-District 4 team, which was a program record. Deakin, senior midfielder Kurtis Turner, senior defender Ive Burnett and junior goalkeeper William Pyle earned spots on the team. Burnett headlined the group with his second-straight selection. Deakin went on to be named CoSIDA Academic First-Team All-American, becoming the fourth first-team academic all-american in program history.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
For the third consecutive year, South Carolina led Conference USA in average home attendance, averaging 2,681 fans per home contest in the regular season. The Gamecocks ranked in the top-ten nationally for the third-straight year as well in the category, finishing 8th in the country.
South Carolina broke the single-game attendance record for Stone Stadium in the season-opener, as 6,892 fans packed The Graveyard to watch the Gamecocks square-off with instate rival No. 3 Clemson.
NCAA TOURNAMENT VS. MERCER
The Gamecocks were pitted against a familiar foe in the opening round of the NCAA Men's Soccer Championship vs. the Mercer Bears. Carolina lost 3-2 in overtime on August 30 to Mercer at home.
The Gamecocks revenge would be sweet, as they shut out the Bears en route to a 1-0 victory. Senior Kevin Walker scored the game-winner in the 39th minute. Carolina shutdown Mercer All-American Will Bagrou, holding him to just two shots in the match.