Soccer opens SEC play with huge matchup against No. 5 South Carolina 

Will Miller, Staff Reporter

In the midst of a six-match winning streak, the No. 11 Alabama soccer team faces one of its toughest tests of the 2022 slate on Thursday.  

In the first ranked-vs-ranked match and one of the biggest contests in Alabama Soccer Stadium history, the Crimson Tide (6-1-1) will face No. 5 South Carolina. 

The Gamecocks (5-0-3) are fresh off a scoreless tie against North Carolina State University in their last outing. In South Carolina’s last four games, it has tied two and won two. Three of those matches have taken place at home. 

In regular season play, South Carolina is an unblemished 3-0 in enemy territory.  

The Crimson Tide won its last game, 3-0, over The University of North Alabama. In the process, they put on another strong offensive showing and the team has now won two games in a row. 

The major impact player on offense has been forward Riley Mattingly Parker, who has found the back of the net six times this season, including once against North Alabama. Defender/midfielder Reyna Reyes has logged a goal in each of Alabama’s last three matches. 

Defender Gessica Skorka scored her first goal of the campaign against the Lions, and afterward said that the group wants more, and wants to see how far they can get.  

In the recent stretch of six matches without a loss, Alabama has collected two top-25 wins. Both were against teams the Crimson Tide stood across from in the 2021 NCAA tournamentClemson University first, and then Brigham Young University. 

The Crimson Tide was picked to finish fifth in the Southeastern Conference in the preseason. South Carolina was picked to finish third.  

To win this match, Alabama will need to check all the boxes. The team has done a lot of things remarkably well this season, and that has been reflected in the results. With challenge after challenge, there’s no room for complacency or straying from the game plan. 

That plan is sure to include scoring and quickly. When the Crimson Tide scores first, the results have only been wins. Many of those first goals came at or before the first 10 minutes of play. Alabama has extended leads in its past several games to extend a lead, one must first be procured. 

On the defensive side, a performance similar to that of the BYU match is needed to win. During that showing, the Crimson Tide frustrated the Cougars, not allowing them to create chances and forcing them into reckless decisions. This led to myriad misses, and an increasing desperation on the side of Alabama’s opponent. 

Alabama will need to make the Gamecocks uncomfortable, and that starts with doing what the group has already done well. Once again, as it has often this season, the sheer experience of the team will come in handy. They know what is expected in a match like this. 

Head coach Wes Hart said his team is by no means satisfied, even with a number of big wins under their belt. He said he is pleased with their confidence and ability to respond to challenging situations. Toppling the highest-ranked team on the slate so far is a good way to further the Crimson Tide’s efforts to compete for the national title come season’s end. 

Kickoff is set for Thursday, Sept. 15, at 6 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]