Bradley Baldez had the game-winning "golden goal" with 59 seconds remaining in the first overtime as the 18th-ranked South Carolina men's soccer team defeated the 24th-ranked Duke Blue Devils, 1-0, in the second round of the NCAA Men's College Cup Sunday afternoon at Stone Stadium. The Gamecocks are making their 19th appearance in the NCAA Tournament - first appearance since 2005 - and met the Blue Devils for the sixth time in the tournament, evening the record against the Blue Devils at 3-3. The Gamecocks received a bye in the first round, while the Blue Devils defeated Coastal Carolina, 2-1, in the first round. The last time the two schools met was in the second round of the 1995 tournament with the Blue Devils defeating the Gamecocks 2-0 in Stone Stadium.
"We're very proud of our guys today," Carolina head coach Mark Berson said. "This was an outstanding NCAA second-round game, which you would expect between a great team like Duke and our team. The game went back and forth and - as often times happens - someone makes a play."
Baldez received a pass from J.P. Rafferty inside the box and slid the ball by Duke goalkeeper James Belshaw and into the back of the net, setting off a wild celebration on the field and in the stands for the Gamecocks.
"Big players make big plays in big games," Berson said. "So often times two good teams play themselves to a standstill, and someone makes a play."
It was an ugly, scoreless first half that had very little flow, thanks in large part to 28 fouls and four yellow cards. Duke's Matthew Thomas and Cole Grossman and Carolina's Danny Cates and Blake Brettschneider received the yellow cards.
The teams spent most of the half on the Gamecocks side of the field, with Duke taking seven shots on goal. The best chance either team had on goal was when the Blue Devils got back-to-back shot attempts inside the box. Temi Molinar sent the ball inside the box to Chris Tweed-Kent who's shot was deflected by Gamecock goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer. The ball went directly Daniel Tweed-Kent - Chris' twin brother - who's point-blank shot was stopped by a diving Maurer, who had three saves in the half.
"They came down the right side and their winger beat our back with a good ball," Maurer said. "One of their players got under it, got a shot and I was able to get a reaction save. It spilled over into the middle and they had a guy crashing in and I just sprawled out."
The Gamecocks' best opportunity of the half was a Stephe Morrissey shot that was stopped by Belshaw, the only save of the half for the Blue Devil goalkeeper.
The Gamecocks wasted little time trying to break the tie in the second half. In the 46', Carolina's Chipper Root got a clean shot at the goal from just outside the box, but his shot sailed high. In the 52' Root had a free kick just outside the box, tapping it outside the Duke wall to Brettschneider who's shot was saved by Belshaw. Brettschneider would later get a golden opportunity in the 70' of the half when he got the ball on a break-away, but his shot just missed the goal to the left.
There was a scary moment in the 76' when Duke's Chris Tweed-Kent incidentally elbowed Carolina's Will Traynor in the head going up for the ball right in front of the Gamecock bench, opening up a gash over Traynor's right eye. To the thrill of everyone in garnet and black, Traynor returned to the game in the 91'.
Duke had their best opportunity of the second half in the 92' with Cole Grossman getting an open header from point-blank range, but his shot sailed over the crossbar and regulation ended with a 0-0 tie.
Duke had the first opportunity to end the game in overtime when Grossman got another open look in the 93', but Maurer made an oustanding diving save to his left. Baldez had an opportunity to end the game minutes before he scored the winning goal in the 96' on a break-away from an outstanding pass from Morrissey, but Baldez's attempt to kick it across the goal from the left side just missed the right corner of the net and went out of bounds.
"I got a little nervous because I thought the game would be over after that," Baldez said. "But I just kept going, and a couple of minutes went by and I saw J.P. take a run down the line and I was able to beat the keeper and score the goal."
The game was the 16th game decided by one goal for the Gamecocks, and Carolina is 12-4 in those contests.
"A season generally boils down to a grouping of one-goal games and I was very proud of our guys all year," Berson said. "We played an extremely difficult schedule, which is the reason why I think our performance in that schedule allowed us to have the #7 (national) seed. We're very battle-hardened and battle-tested so really it doesn't bother us to go into overtime."
The Gamecocks, who won their first NCAA Tournament game since 1998, broke a 6-game losing streak in the tournament and will host 19th-ranked Michigan next Sunday at Stone Stadium. Michigan knocked off C-USA opponent Central Florida 2-1 in overtime today in Ann Arbor.
"I'm extremely proud of our guys and our staff," Berson said. "Everyone has worked extremely hard this year and it's great to come out with a win and advance to the next round."
Baldez Golden in 1-0 Victory Over Duke
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