Lauren Chang has friends on the Samford women’s soccer team that visited South Carolina and played the Gamecocks on Nov. 16 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
After the game, they expressed to her a bit of shock.
“Do this many people come to your games all the time?”
The answer was yes.
“And do the drums play the whole time?”
“Making this environment so special. [The fans] know they are a key, integral part to our success here,” Chang, the Gamecock junior, said.
It’s that fan support and that special environment that has driven South Carolina’s success at The Graveyard. The Gamecocks are 44-2-3 record at Stone Stadium since 2016, with the last loss coming more than a calendar year ago — 1-0 on Oct. 25, 2018 — against then No. 15 Texas A&M.
The No. 2 seed Gamecocks (19-1-3, 7-0-3 SEC) will look continue the unprecedented success when they face unseeded Washington State (15-6-1, 5-5-1 PAC-12) in the Elite Eight on Friday at 6 p.m.
“[I’m] thankful Grace [Fisk] and the other seniors have another time to play [at Stone Stadium],” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said after the team’s Sweet 16 win. “We know it’s going to be our last game at this point. It’s a little easier to take.”
A quick look into the streak of success at Stone Stadium shows some staggering numbers.
In the 49 games, the Gamecocks have outscored opponents 93-14, including 20-3 this season. South Carolina scored multiple goals in seven of the eleven home games this season.
In NCAA Tournament play — over 12 games the last four seasons — South Carolina has outscored competition 25-2.
“We’ve said all year, [Stone Stadium] is one of the best places to play in the country for college soccer,” Smith said. “It’s a special place. Our fans have been tremendous all year. The support just helps us through games. It really does.
“It’s a neat venue. We’re thankful to be home. We have a lot of good memories on that field. Just thankful that we have one more chance. Which initially, we didn’t think we may get to that point. It is a special opportunity and take advantage of being home again.”
Some of those memories are NCAA Tournament wins.
Since 2016, South Carolina is 11-1 in postseason play at home, with the lone loss being a 1-0 defeat against UNC in the Elite Eight in 2016. The program’s lone College Cup berth was won at Stone Stadium, a 2-0 win over rival Florida in 2017.
South Carolina has dropped just one SEC game at home over the last four years and is also 2-0 against Clemson at home since 2016.
Other memories include goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski breaking the SEC shutout record at Stone Stadium in 2018 as a junior. This season South Carolina has beaten three ranked opponents at home, outscoring them 5-1. Elexa Bahr, Ryan Gareis and Luciana Zullo combined to score three goals in six minutes against William & Mary.
In SEC play since the beginning of the 2016 season, the Gamecocks are 17-1-3 and have outscored opponents 41-7.
As Chang mentioned, it’s the atmosphere that makes Stone Stadium difficult for visitors to play at. Whether it be fans packed on one side or the Graveyard Shift on the other. With the addition of a pep band for the tournament games, fans are constantly cheering.
The NCAA even ranked Stone Stadium as one of the top-10 places to play in college soccer at the beginning of the season.
For its most decorated senior class in history, South Carolina has the chance to leave Stone Stadium with yet another fantastic memory: a 45th win on home field in the 50th game and a second trip to the College Cup in three seasons.