By Josh Hyber/File photo by Allen Sharpe
Mikayla Krzeczowski clapped her hands twice before embracing her defenders — a double high-five for Grace Fisk, a double low-five for Rebecca Koch and a hug for Jackie Schaefer. South Carolina’s goalkeeper then slung a white towel over her right shoulder and headed toward the Gamecock bench as an announcement played over the Stone Stadium loud speaker:
“Ladies and gentlemen, with today’s shutout, goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski records her 32nd career shutout. … A new leader in career shutouts.”
She then turned and clapped toward fans in the Graveyard Shift who chanted her name.
On Sunday afternoon at Stone Stadium, Krzeczowski posted that record-breaker in a 1-0 South Carolina (11-2) victory over Florida (4-8-2) in the eighth-straight one-goal game between the teams. The shutout, her seventh this season, gives her one more than Mollie Patton (2006-10).
“She’s not only going to break the record, she’s going to smash it,” Fisk said. “That’s the plan.”
Freshman midfielder Selma Sol Magnusdottir, with her family on hand from Iceland, scored the game’s lone goal in the 10th minute.
“That’s just a great accolade and I’m very honored to be mentioned with [Gamecock goalkeeping greats] Sabrina D’Angelo and Mollie Patton in the same sentence,” Krzeczowski said. “… But shutouts are a team effort. We harp on [team] defense.
“I have the best back four in front of me and they save my butt a lot. They definitely make my job easy and give me the ability to shutout games like that.”
Added South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith, “I don’t follow the records. I don’t know who has what. But I do she’s been playing excellent. She’s been an excellent goalkeeper for us for two and a half years now and has a lot more to play.
“I think she has played with tremendous teams, as well, and she’s been a big part of that and has led our defense from the day she got here as a freshman. Shutouts don’t come easy.”
It did not take long for the home team to strike.
A ball almost stood still around the edge of the 18-yard box before Sol Magnusdottir took possession, dipped around UF defender Briana Solis and buried a shot into the left side of the goal at the 34:04 mark of the first half. It was the third goal in four games for the freshman. Her parents, Unnur Friopjofsdottir and Magus Valdimarsson were in town to see it.
With temperatures reaching 93 degrees at Stone Stadium — with no cloud coverage — Krzeczowski spent most of the afternoon with her left hand shading her eyes.
“Florida’s a great competitor, they always keep it very tight,” Krzeczowski said. “They have great players and they always give us a test. I’m just glad we could rise to the occasion and get an early goal and shut them out the rest of the game.”
Added Fisk, “Florida’s an enjoyable team to play. They play really, really nice soccer. It’s kind of fun to play teams that get the ball down and challenge us.
“I think, as a back line, we stood strong and they caused us a lot of problems. But it helps having a solid keeper behind us who can collect any loose balls.”
Meanwhile, Krzeczowski wasn’t tested much.
Florida forward Sara Wilson sent in a shot just under 20 minutes in the first half that she gobbled up. Three minutes later Wilson fired a shot from inside the box that roared just wide of the right post.
After the game, the goalkeeper reflected on her shutout record.
She doesn’t remember the first of her career, a 3-0 win at NC State on Aug. 25, 2016, but she does remember her first in the SEC and the third of her career, a 3-0 shutout at home against Georgia.
“I think I only have to make about three or four saves,” Krzeczowski said. “It was a pretty cool feeling.”
It’s a feeling she has experienced 29 more times, and one she’s sure to feel many more times as the South Carolina keeper.
“I do not keep count … We just have the goal of shutting teams out every game,” she said. “Coach Clark [McCarthy] always says, ‘Keep it out of the back of the net.’ So that’s my job. That’s what I’m here to do. Hopefully I can continue to do it as much as possible.”