ORANGE BEACH, Ala. - South Carolina scored four minutes into overtime and eliminated Arkansas' soccer team from the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Monday, 3-2.
Arkansas tied the game in the 74th minute and forced the extra period, but USC won it at 93:54 when Steve Parker scored inside the right post off a cross from the far side by Caroline Gray.
Arkansas was making its first appearance in the SEC Tournament since 2000. First-year head coach Colby Hale guided the Razorbacks to a 9-10-1 finish, including a school record six wins in SEC play (6-6-1). The nine wins are the most since the 2008 club went 11-8-0.
"We're proud of the kids," Hale said. "We came back twice when we were down and this was their first experience in the SEC Tournament. We've done that all year. We never like giving up three goals, but we love their fight."
South Carolina scored early and late in the first half, but Arkansas answered each goal.
With 16:04 remaining, Allie Chandler got the ball past midfield, beat a defender and dribbled to within 30 yards of the goal. She fired a low, hard shot into the right side of the net to tie the game 2-2 at 73:56.
With four minutes to go, the Razorbacks had a chance to take the lead with a long pass to Chandler. She beat the defense inside the box, but the ball bounced and hit her hands, and she was called for a handball to turn the ball over, preventing a potential one-on-keeper opportunity and leading to overtime.
"We told them we know it stings and it hurts right now, but when they take a step back, they will realize they made memories they will have for a lifetime," Hale says. "We took a lot of steps this year. We recorded our first wins ever over ranked teams and beat good teams on the road. We're going to work hard to build on what we accomplished this season."
South Carolina was aggressive early and it paid off as the Gamecocks took a quick lead. Danielle Au scored from the top of the box at 4:41.
Arkansas had a chance to tie it two minutes later when Margaret Power made a steal just across midfield, dribbled in and fired a shot from 35 yards out, but USC keeper Sabrina D'Angelo made the stop at the left post.
The Razorbacks showed great teamwork to tie it in the 22nd minute. Yvonne DesJarlais passed from the defensive end to Chandler across midfield. Chandler dribbled around a defender and passed ahead to Ashleigh Ellenwood, who drew the keeper out and rolled a shot into the right corner of the goal to tie the game at 1-1 at 23:20.
Arkansas made a bid to take the lead five minutes later after a foul on USC. The free kick by Allie Tripp bounced off the crossbar.
With seven minutes left in the half, a foul gave Arkansas a free kick to the right of the 18. Ellenwood fired a shot from the top of the box and the Razorbacks had another one bounce off the crossbar.
In the 41st minute, Kaylyn Cooper cleared deep from the defensive end and found Chandler sprinting toward the goal. D'Angelo came out, but Chandler got there first and lofted a shot over the USC keeper, but it was just wide right of an open net.
USC regained the lead with just 1:21 left in the opening half off a throw in. The throw got into the 18 and a pair of Gamecocks made a play on the pass. Courtney Angotti-Smith knocked it just inside the left post on a header from Elizabeth Sinclair for the 2-1 lead at 43:39.
For the period, Arkansas had a clear advantage in shots, 9-4, but the teams were tied at 4-4 in shots on goal.
The Razorbacks had a chance to tie it in the 58th minute. Chandler sprinted down the right side and beat her defender. She turned into the box and passed into the middle for Ellenwood, who got a good foot on it about 12 years out. D'Angelo recovered from playing Chandler, moved to her right and just got her right foot on Ellenwood's shot for the save.
In the 67th minute, the Gamecocks had a couple of chances with consecutive corners, one from each side of the field, but Arkansas turned back each attempt.
With 20 minutes to go, a foul on USC game Tripp another free kick from the left side about 40 yards out. Kicking into a strong breeze, she got the ball into the 18 and Ellenwood tried a header, but it was wide right.
Less than four minutes later, Chandler tied the game with her 30-yarder.
"Every game was a fight and a battle," Hale said. "We have a lot of work to do as a staff and players, but the girls are excited. They know there is much more to come in the future."
South Carolina led in shots, 16-13, and in shots on goal, 8-7. The Gamecocks had a 10-4 edge in shots for the second period. South Carolina also had a huge advantage in corner kicks, 10-1.