Nov. 2, 2011
ORANGE BEACH, Ala. - The Alabama soccer team opened the Southeastern Conference Tournament with a thrilling 1-0 victory over top-seed South Carolina, Wednesday night at the Orange Beach Sportsplex. The win is the first for the Crimson Tide in the tournament since 1998.
"It was a good performance by our team," Alabama head coach Todd Bramble said. "I thought in the first half, we were very good. I thought the goal was an outstanding goal by Molly [Atherton] and it was well deserved. When you're playing against a team like South Carolina, they're going to fight back in the second half and they made a great run to try to tie it up, but our defense was outstanding and our goalkeeper Justine [Bernier] was big-time tonight."
Alabama (10-7-3) earns its first double digit win total since 2004. The win also marks the third on the season over a ranked opponent as the Gamecocks (15-6-0) entered the tournament ranked No. 19 in the country. South Carolina won the SEC regular season title.
The win was just the third for Alabama in SEC tournament history as the Tide improve to 3-7 in the tournament. It was the first time the No. 8 seed had knocked off the No. 1 seed since 2002 (LSU 1 - Auburn 0).
Alabama scored the lone goal in the match as sophomore Molly Atherton netted what proved to be the game-winner on her fourth goal of the season. Atherton gathered a Kendall Khanna pass that was setup by K.K. Duffy atop the box and from the right side fired a low-drive inside the far post to hand the Tide the early 1-0 lead.
Senior Justine Bernier recorded her seventh shutout on the season on the strength of seven saves. Rarely tested in the first half, the All-SEC second team selection made some key stops in the second half to preserve the win. The seven shutouts ties for the most in a single season in school history and extends her school record to 21 career clean sheets.
"That's pretty typical of the career that she's had," Bramble said of Bernier. "She's reliable back there and she had to make a couple of special saves tonight and save a couple of balls from going into the corners. Not only did she make those saves, but she held onto them. She's a great presence for us."
South Carolina outshot Alabama, 18-10, with Kayla Grimsley and Kortney Rhoades firing off five each to lead all players. Freshman Theresa Diederich paced the Crimson Tide with four shots, putting two on frame.
Alabama will now await the winner of No. 5 seed Georgia versus No. 4 seed Florida. The semifinal round is slated for Friday, Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m.