It took 41 minutes for South Carolina to score against Notre Dame in the teams’ September matchup, and 41 minutes, and another misstep from the Irish defense, to do so on Friday.
It was South Carolina midfielder Sam Chang who, in the second matchup between the teams this season, intercepted a Jade Gosar clear and put the home team on the attack 35 yards from the cage. Chang took one step and slid a pass to Riley Tanner, who immediately redirected it to Elexa Bahr.
Tanner sprinted toward the net and took a through ball from Bahr just inside the 18-yard box.
The sophomore forward let the ball slide ahead of her before she booted it with her left foot out of the reach of diving Notre Dame keeper Mattie Interian and into the left side of the net.
“I was looking, obviously, to go to goal, and Lex played a great ball though,” Tanner said. “I just did my job as a forward and finished.”
Tanner turned around into an embrace with Bahr and Chang. Interian crossed her arms and looked down into the Stone Stadium grass.
Tanner’s goal was all No. 2 seed South Carolina (18-1-3) needed in its 1-0 victory over the Irish (11-8-2) in the team’s NCAA Tournament Round of 32 matchup. The Gamecocks will host Kansas (17-4-3) in the Sweet 16 on Sunday at 2 p.m.
“Tonight was just a battle to the end,” South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith said. “… Our defense stood strong once again, we put ourselves in position to score and again, limited them to few opportunities, which is a huge credit to the entire team and what they’ve been doing all year.”
It’s the fifth time South Carolina has reached the Sweet 16.
SC posted its 16th shutout of the season. It’s the 15th for goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski, tying the senior with Mollie Patton (2009) on the school’s all-time record for shutouts in a season.
Tanner’s goal was her fourth of the season and second of the NCAA Tournament. Bahr’s assist moved her into a tie for first for the most points by a Gamecock in a career in the NCAA Tournament.
South Carolina controlled tempo in the early going.
Speedy winger Ryan Gareis dominated the left flank and had early changes on through balls from Lauren Chang and Jyllissa Harris. Luciana Zullo and Rebecca Koch linked up on a give-and-go on one sequence that led to Zullo sliding a pass to Gareis, who had a chance all alone.
But the play was blown dead because of an offside.
Notre Dame then had its chances.
Fifteen minutes in, Krzeczowski misplayed a ball that was fed back to her from defender Anna Patten. Irish forward Eva Hurm possessed it for a moment but was bumped off the ball by a recovering Patten.
The Irish had a chance to tie the score with just over eight minutes to go in the first half.
Notre Dame midfielder Sammi Fisher sent a corner kick that evaded Krzeczowski and was destined to find the bottom left corner of the net, but Gamecock outside back Sutton Jones booted it away.
“South Carolina’s one of the best teams in the country. These are the teams you have to beat if you have goals of winning national championships,” said Notre Dame head coach Nate Norman, who happens to have coached Tanner’s Michigan-based ODP team for a while when she was in high school. “These are the teams that you have to figure out how to come in and grind out wins against.
“… At the end of the day, there’s no moral victories, especially in the NCAA Tournament. One team walks away and they’re playing, and one team walks away and their season’s done.”