COLUMBIA, S.C. – With freshman forward Eli Dent’s unassisted goal in the 92nd minute, South Carolina (6-5-4, 3-1-2 C-USA) upset No. 25 New Mexico (8-4-2, 4-1-1 C-USA) to give head coach Mark Berson his 450th win at the helm of the Gamecocks.
Berson is the fourth head coach in NCAA Division I history to post 450 wins at one institution. During the 2011 season, he collected his 450th career victory, becoming the eighth Division I coach all-time to reach the 450-win milestone.
“I’m mostly just really proud of our players. This is our seventh overtime game this year, and the guys have really hung in there and battled all year long,” Berson said of the milestone victory. “It’s critical because New Mexico is nationally ranked and they are 11th in the RPI. It’s a big win for us in the conference, on the national level and, most importantly, for our guys. They deserve this. They hung in there and battled and found a way to win.
“To be fair, I thought the first half was even. The second half, we slipped a little bit. New Mexico really took it to us in the second half. In the overtime, we found a way, and that’s the most important thing”
Just over a minute into the seventh overtime match of the Gamecocks’ season, junior midfielder Hunter Wyer pushed a stolen ball over to Dent. Dent calmly fired the game-winner from straight away near the top of the 18-yard box.
Seven South Carolina players registered a shot in the match; Dent was the only one to notch multiple shots, putting both of his opportunities on goal. Senior midfielder Michael Calderon led New Mexico with five shots. Each team recorded just three shots on goal, with the Lobos holding a 14-3 shot advantage.
Between the posts, freshman Marco Velez hauled in three saves in the win for the Gamecocks. Senior netminder Michael Lisch collected two saves for New Mexico.
The defeat marks the first for New Mexico as a member of C-USA, their first season in the league.
The 19th minute marked a flurry of action on offense for the Gamecocks. On a corner kick from the far side served in from sophomore midfielder Jeffrey Torda, junior defender Braeden Troyer nearly found net on a header, but Lisch swatted it from goal. Junior defender Mahamoudou Kaba attempted to score on the rebound, but a Lobo defender blocked the shot.
On the second quick rebound of the sequence, Torda shot from near the edge of the 18-yard box, but another defender was there to deflect the ball. South Carolina was awarded another corner kick on the play but couldn’t create a chance on the second opportunity.
The teams ended the half nearly even on the stat sheet. South Carolina held a 4-3 upperhand in shots and a 2-1 advantage in corner kicks. Each keeper registered a save in the first 45-minute period.
In the second half, New Mexico was the aggressor.
After drawing a foul near the top of the 18-yard box in the 47th minute, Calderon restarted play with a shot towards goal, but the line of Gamecock defenders deflected the ball. The Lobos collected the rebound and created another opportunity. Freshman forward Niko Hansen’s shot from the near side ricocheted off the crossbar.
Minutes later, Calderon found the frame to be unkind again as a second shot bounced off the crossbar.
New Mexico sophomore midfielder Ben McKendry fired a rocket towards Velez and looked to have beaten the keeper, but the ball skipped to the near post and deflected out of play to keep the game scoreless.
Looking for the lead, sophomore midfielder Devin L’Amoreaux flicked a ball up to Dent. Dent had beaten his defender, but couldn’t fool Lisch with his shot as the keeper stayed home for the save.
Five minutes later, Hansen pushed a point-blank shot to Velez, but the Gamecock held his line to keep the match scoreless.
In the second period, the Lobos outshot the Gamecocks 11-3 but put just two on frame. Velez collected a save on both of the opportunities.
The teams continued play into overtime after 90 minutes of scoreless soccer. Dent’s goal just 1:04 into the extra period gave the Gamecocks the victory.
The Gamecocks hit the road for their next two games. First, South Carolina travels to Miami, Fla., to face FIU for a midweek conference game on Wednesday, Oct. 30, at 6:30. Then, the Gamecocks travel to No. 10 UAB on Sunday, Nov. 3. The final regular-season road match is slated to begin at 3 p.m. ET in Birmingham, Ala.