COLUMBIA, S.C. – The journey continues for the Alabama State women's soccer team and their storybook season as it now prepares for their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance in a First Round match on Friday at 7 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. CT. against No. 1 seed South Carolina inside Eugene E. Stone III Stadium.
Alabama State (11-9-1 overall) departed for Columbia, S.C. early Thursday morning, fresh off winning its' first ever SWAC soccer championship in school history.
It earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament after defeating Arkansas-Pine Bluff 2-1 this past Sunday in the SWAC Championship match in Prairie View, TX.
The program's progression to this point has been a long road.
While the program started in 2004, it went through winless seasons and did not have a winning year until 2013 when it went 14-7.
Since that time, the team won 11 matches in 2014, nine in 2015 and now 11 in 2016.
It represents a solid mark of consistency (45 wins in the past four seasons) to average 11.25 wins per season during this stretch.
"It's an exciting time for our program," said 10th
year ASU head women's soccer coach Jodie Smith
"I'm looking forward to the challenge of playing against South Carolina. We're going to enjoy the experience."
Statistically, the Lady Hornets were the most potent offense as it led the nation among Division I women's soccer programs in goals scored (62), goals per match (2.95) and points per match (8.00).
was named the SWAC Tournament MVP in a spirited championship match performance in which she tallied both of ASU's goals.
Her twin sister Aaliyah Lewis
was also named the SWAC's All-Tournament Team.
Aa. Lewis scored her 17th
career game-winning goal in a 1-0 opening round victory against Jackson State.
Lady Hornets' goalkeeper Gianna Guyot
(11-6-1) has steadily improved upon her goals against average (GAA) as the season has progressed, dropping from over 3.00 early in the season to its current value at 1.61.
ABOUT THE GAMECOCKS
South Carolina (18-1-1) boasts one of the most impressive defensive squads in the country as it has ceded just nine total goals to their opponents.
The Gamecocks enter the postseason ranked as the No. 2 team overall in the nation.
Their lone defeat came in the SEC Championship match in a 1-0 defeat to Florida last Friday, Nov. 4.
Goalkeeper Mika Krzeczowski has started most of those contests by drawing 17 of 20 starts.
The freshman holds a 0.46 GAA with 46 saves, nine shutouts and a .852 save percentage.
Junior striker Savannah McCaskill is the Gamecocks' top scorer with 16 goals, eight assists and nine winning goals.
This match up features three of only 10 active players in Division I women's soccer with at least 30 goals and 20 assists in their playing careers.
Alabama State has two of them in Aaliyah Lewis
(57 goals, 33 assists) and Ariela Lewis
(45 goals, 27 assists).
South Carolina's Savannah McCaskill has 31 goals and 22 assists. She is the only junior among the 10.
HOW TO FOLLOW
WATCH ON SEC NETWORK+