|School – South Carolina|
|Conference – Conference USA|
|Coach – Mark Berson (37th Season)|
Background – After reaching back-to-back NCAA tournaments in 2010 and 2011, the Gamecocks have hit a bit of a lull the past two years with a combined 12-18-7 mark. South Carolina was a young squad in 2013, with five true freshmen appearing in at least 17 games. The results were unsurprising, as the team struggled out of the gate but found its footing by the end of the season and posted some impressive results. The Gamecocks opened the campaign 2-4-2 but then closed the regular season with a 5-2-3 run that featured wins over eventual national semifinalist New Mexico and nationally ranked UAB. The season ultimately ended with a loss to Tulsa in the Conference USA tournament. Defenders Mahamoudou Kaba and Braeden Troyer each earned All-Conference USA first-team honors, while goalkeeper Marco Velez and midfielder Kurtis Turner were named to the conference All-Freshman team. Velez and Turner were two of the five freshmen who logged major minutes in 2013, along with midfielder Koty Millard (17 starts), defender Ive Burnett (18 starts) and forward Eli Dent (17 appearances). While the youth was a detriment last season, the experience each player gained should only hasten their development moving forward.
Offense – Most of South Carolina’s offense came through the midfield in 2013, with Jeff Torda’s five goals and one assist leading the charge. Torda will return to the midfield as a senior this fall along with sophomores Kurtis Turner (1g, 5a) and Koty Millard (2a). Starter J.P. Rafferty and reserve Jason Chapman are the only two players the team lost to graduation from a year ago, and their loss will be felt in the defensive midfield. But the Gamecocks do get the services of junior Jeff Addai, who transferred from Spring Arbor University last year but tore his ACL in the preseason. Scoring from the forward position was a weakness for South Carolina last year, with Eli Dent popping in three goals to lead the unit. Dent returns as a sophomore along with a few other scoring threats who could change the team’s fortunes up front. Sophomore Hamilton Carlin battled injuries as a freshman but is a big-time talent who was rated the No. 36 recruit in the Class of 2013 by College Soccer News. A pair of newcomers will also bolster the forward attack in junior Kevin Walker (transfer from Cincinnati State) and freshman Mikkel Knudsen (native of Denmark).
Defense – The Gamecocks return three starters on the back line, with senior Mahamoudou Kaba (5g) leading the way as Conference USA Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Kaba started all 19 games at center back in 2013 and picked up NSCAA All-South second-team recognition. Senior Braeden Troyer (2g) returns as Kaba’s center back partner after earning All-Conference USA honors for a third consecutive season last fall. Sophomore Ive Burnett (1g) has the left back job locked down after making 18 starts a year ago. Junior Joey Hutchinson has the most experience of any other defensive returnee after playing in nine games a year ago. The team has a pair of good options in goal, as sophomore Marco Velez returns after starting 15 games as a true freshman. He started all those games because starter Robert Beebe got hurt in the fourth game of the season and missed the rest of the year. Beebe will be back this year as a junior looking to reclaim his job.
Newcomers – Three and A Half Star Recruiting Class
Trevor Baum – Defender – Keller, Texas – Played 54 games for the Solar Chelsea club team over the past two years in the Development Academy.Won two state championships at Nolan Catholic.
Craig Duggan – Goalkeeper – Troy, Mich. – Played 31 games over the past two seasons for Vardar club team in the Development Academy.
Martin Ramos – Midfield – Columbus, Ga. – Leading scorer for Brookstone School as a junior and senior. Three-time Georgia All-State selection.
Kevin Walker – Forward – Cincinnati, Ohio – Transfer from Cincinnati State. Recorded 13 goals and seven assists in 17 games as a sophomore last season.Played as a freshman at Northern Kentucky.
Mikkel Knudsen – Forward – Allested-Vejle, Denmark – Scored 28 goals over his final two seasons playing for the FC Svendborg U-19 team.
Prognosis for 2014 –The Gamecocks took their lumps in 2013, but it could work out in the long run as a whole class of players should benefit from surviving the trial by fire. Defense and goalkeeping should be strong, so the key will be improving on last year’s goal-scoring output of 25 in 19 games. There is enough talent on the roster at forward that a marked improvement on offense is quite possible. The team only leaves South Carolina once in its first 10 games, so the schedule is not a bear. Crucial late-season games against UAB, N.C. State, Old Dominion and New Mexico will go a long way in determining if the Gamecocks can return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.