|School – University of South Carolina|
|Conference – Conference USA|
|Coach – Mark Berson (39th Season)|
Background – South Carolina was 11-8-2 overall with a 6-2-0 mark in conference play in 2015. The Gamecocks entered the 2015 season with a lot of unanswered questions due to the gaps that had to be plugged but almost all were answered in the affirmative.
The Gamecocks had signature wins over Elon, New Mexico, Old Dominion, and Coastal Carolina. They were undefeated at home in 2015 for only the second time in program history with an 8-0-2 mark when playing at Stone Stadium.
South Carolina was awarded an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament last year and subsequently advanced past Furman in the first round of play before being edged 1-0 by UC Santa Barbara on the road in the second round.
The Gamecocks have a winning tradition as refelected in the fact that they have had a winning record in thirty-four of the past thirty-seven seasons.
South Carolina head coach Mark Berson is one of only three coaches to have recored 450 career victories and is the winningest active Division I head coach with a total of 483 wins.
South Carolina has earned a total of twenty-one invites to the NCAA Tournamet including most recently the 2011 and 2015 campaigns. They have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen a total of eleven times, the Elite Eight four times, and to the College Cup (Final Four) two times (1988 and 1993). In 1993 they advanced to the national championship contest.
Forward Dannyt Deakin was a 2015 All-CUSA First Team selection. Defender Koty Millard and forward Kevin Walker were named to the 2015 All-CUSA Second Team while defender Ive Burnett and forward Jeffrey Torda were Third Team selections. Defenders Peyton Ericson and Torgeir Nyboe were named to the 2015 C-USA All-Freshman Team.
Offense – The key loss due to graduation is forward/midfielder Jeffrey Torda (5g, 1a) who was a four-year starter. South Carolina also has voids to fill due to the departure of forward/midfielder Asa Kryst (2g, 2a) and midfielder Ryan Arambula (0g, 5a).
However the outlook heading into the 2016 season is very positive on the offensive side of the ball due to the return of seniors Danny Deakin (11g, 2a) and Kevin Walker (5g, 0a) up-top as well as sophomores Bjorn Gudjonsson (2g, 1a) and Trygve Ellingstad (1g, 1a).
Deakin is a prime timer who transferred in last year from Mercyhurst College to give the South Carolina attack the extra punch it needed. He is equally effective playing up-top or out wide and is very dangerous out of free kick situations. Look for Deakin to again light up the back of the net in 2016 and to create havoc for opposing defenders.
Walker is also a proven finisher with the athleticism needed to provide an additional element to the attack. Gudjonsson saw action in sixteen contests last year but was hampered by injuries. He looks to be healthy heading into the 2016 campaign which should be an added plus for the Gamecock offense. Ellingstad who saw action in eight contests last year also had injury issues but he had an impressive spring season and now appears to be at full speed. Ellingstad is a left sided player who Berson may utilize up-top or as an outside left midfielder.
A good group of midfielders are slated to return led by senior center midfielder and team captain Kurtis Turner (0g, 1a) and senior Koty Millard (1g, 5a). Turner is a ball winner with an outstanding work ethic. He serves as the catalyst and team quarterback and will set the pace for the team. Millard is a dynamic box to box midfielder who has the ability to create space off the dribble on the flank and open up the field of play.
Sophomore Ben Davidson (1g, 1a) who saw limited action last year had a solid spring season and figures to play a more prominent role in 2016. Junior Martin Ramos also had a productive spring campaign and is among other returning midfielders who should be in the mix.
Freshman Campbell Gibson is a solid center back with a lot of highly competitive experience who should compete for minutes sooner rather than later depending upon how long it takes him to make the adjustment to the college game.
Defense – This time last year South Carolina faced the challenge of major rebuilding in the backline due to the graduation of two really good central defenders. That is not the case heading into the 2016 season where a lot more certainty exists on the defensive side of the ball. The backline will be experienced and has the potential to be a team strength in 2016.
The defense improved as the season progressed last year but there is room for and a need for improvement over the over the twenty-nine goals South Carolina allowed opponents to put in the back of the net last year.
Senior Ive Burnett who has been a starter since setting foot in Columbia is the team's most experienced back. Burnett is a solid and composed defender who is also very effective at pushing forward to add another element to the offense.
Sophomore center backs Torgeir Nyboe (0g, 1a) and Peyton Ericson (0g, 1a) had impressive freshmen seasons and now have the benefit of a year of starting experience under their belts. Nyboe has great vision and touch on the ball. Ericson is a very athletic ball winner who is also very effective in the tackle. Both are also capable of playing in the holding midfielder role.
Sophomore Andre Streete who was hampered last year by injury gives the Gamecocks another solid option at center back. If he stays healthy he could figure prominently in the defense in 2016. Senior back Matt McManis also has the potential to play a greater role in 2016. Junior transfer Christopher Wallanbder-Ianev from Maryland looks to be a postivie addition and should be in the hunt for the right back position. The fact that Wallender-Ianev participated with South Carolina in the spring season should enable him to hit the ground running.
Junior William Pyle who played in seventeen contests last year with a 0,96 goals against average and senior Marco Velez who was the starter between the pipes in 2013 and 2014 but only appeared in five contests last year return to give the Gamecocks two experienced goalkeepers. Redshirt sophomore Craig Duggan also returns in goal along with freshman newcomer Jeffrey Lu.
Coach Berson stated, " Our coaches Spencer Lewis and Joey Worthen have done a great job and we are excigted about theses young men comingto South Carolina to further develop and enhance the winning tradition of the Gamecock soccer program."
Christoffer Wallander-Ianev – Defender – Gavel Sweden – Borgarskolan – A junior transfer from Maryland where he appeared in six contests in 2014 and four in 2015. Played for Gefle IF.
Evan Collins – Defender – Carlisle, Pennsylvania – Carlisle High – Played for PA Classics Academy. Member of the Eastern PA ODP team.
Jeffrey Lu – Goalkeeper – Marietta, Georgia – Walton Comprehensive High School – Played for the North Atlanta Soccer Association. Member of the ODP Region III pool. Member of the Georgia 98 ODP team.
Campbell Gibson – Midfielder – Glasgow, Scotland – Played on the Scottish Youth Football Association National Team for four years. Played for Harmony Row. Also competed in Rugby in high school.
Prognosis for 2016 – Eight starters return along with a lot of players who gained valuable playing time last year who have the potential to make a greater contribution in 2016. Berson will have a lot of different lineup options.
Danny Deakin infused new life in the attack last year and will be the go-to guy in the South Carolina attack in 2016. The eleven goals that Deakin netted last year made him the first South Carolina player to score ten goals since the 2008 campaign. Senior Kevin Walker also returns to give the Gamecocks the potential for a very effective one-two combinaiton up-top.
Although a solid core returns in the midfield including seniors Kurtis Turner and Koty Millard, some reloading will be required due to the departure of Ryan Kryst, Ryan Arambula and Devin L'Amoreaux.
The backline has the potential to be very good due to the experience gained last year but progress is needed over the twenty-nine goals allowed last year. When it is all said and done the Gamecocks will likely go as far in 2016 as the defense takes them.
The effectiveness of the attack will depend a lot on Deakin's continued productivity. In order for that to occur, others up-top and in the midfield will have to add an additional dimension to the offense.
Last year the Gamecocks were undefeated when playing at home but 2-7-0 on the road including a 0-5-0 mark in non-conference play. South Carolina will again play a very competitive slate of conference and out of conference opponents in 2016 which means the margin for error will again be very small.
The Gamecocks showed a lot of grit last year when they rebounded from a slow start and gelled as a team to get back on track and into the national rankings. Combine the talent returning with a good portion of grit and the ingredients for another successful season in 2016 look to be in place.