Relive Thrilling SEC Final (on-site BLOG recap of LSU-South Carolina matchup)

Thanks again to Chris Henderson for his volunteer service to CS360 while at the SEC Tournament. Chris sent along periodic updates, in addition to compiling this excellent and detailed on-site blog narrative of what turned out to be a thrilling SEC title game:


CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: LSU vs. South Carolina

1:51 — It's a sunny and wirm day with the wind whipping a bit, no doubt due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Ida.

1:52 — History will be made here today, one way or the other, as both schools are making their first SEC Tournament Final appearance. Both school also are trying to win their first trophy of any kind. Neither has won the SEC regular-season title either.

1:53 — LSU's unquestioned leader is the best player in the SEC, senior MF/F Malorie Rutledge. The two-time SEC offensive player of the year nearly won the semifinal against Auburn singlehandedly with a brilliant performance. She can score goals in bulk and provide assists for her teammates at will.

1:55 — South Carolina has their own offensive spark plug in sophomore forward Kayla Grimsley. Grimsley provided her own heroics against Georgia in the quarterfinal, helping key the Gamecocks's spirited fightback from 1-0 and 2-1 down to win the match 3-2. South Carolina were 10 minutes from defeat on Wednesday. They're now 90 minutes from glory.

1:56 — These two teams met a few weeks ago in Baton Rouge, a 1-0 win for the home side that saw Ellen Fahey sent off for an extreme foul. The Tigers were without Rachel Yepez on that Sunday afternoon, but the striker has recovered sufficiently to be a major player in the SEC Tournament thus far.

1:57 — Does today's match represent a changing of the guard of sorts? This is the first time since 1995 that neither Florida nor Tennessee have claimed a spot in the final.

1:57 — LSU also will be trying to erase the SEC West's long streak of futility. A team from the Western Division has NEVER won the SEC Tournament.

1:58 — There are loud and boisterous contingents for both teams in the stands, easily as loud as we've seen in a long time here in Orange Beach.

2:01 — STARTERs - SC (17-3-1) - G-Patton ... DF-Diaz-Matosas, Mattern, Fahey, B. Rhoades ... M - Miller, K. Rhoades, Small ... F - Grimsley, Bigbie, Jacobs

2:03 — LSU - G - Isom ... D - Potts, Bush, Lagow, Alexander ... M - Chapman, Boudreau, Murphy ... F - Rutledge, Clarke, Banks

2:03 — LSU opts once more to not partner Banks and Yepez, this time with Carlie Banks starting and Yepez on the bench.

2:06 — We are under way in Orange Beach!

2:06 — South Carolina are in all red and attacking left-to-right, LSU in all white going right-to-left.

2:07 — Jacobs and Alexander tussle in the corner and the LSU defender is able to force the South Carolina winger off the ball

2:08 — Very close to 1-0 for LSU. The Gamecocks lay off Clarke after a long ball and the senior forward sends her shot just wide.

2:09 — Clarke is whistled for a push in the box at the top of the Carolina box.

2:10 — The Tigers are opting for 4-3-3 again with Banks centrally and Rutledge and Clarke playing beside

2:10 — Grimsley has a pass deflected towards Kourtney Rhoades, but the South Carolina player is just a hair offside.

2:12 — LSU tries to counter at pace, but Rutledge has the ball knocked away from her.

2:13 — South Carolina are doing a good job of playing their possession game early on with nearly eight minutes gone. A bad back pass finds Kourtney Rhoades, but the pass across the box is cut out.

2:14 — LSU looks much more nervous early on.

2:15 — Grimsley sprays a wonderful ball to the near sideline to Jacobs, who skins Alexander and cuts inside but her cross evades everyone.

2:16 — Clarke dribbles through the defense and Rutledge has a cross cleared away well by Mattern.

2:18 — South Carolina are trying to achieve quite the feat and avenge all three of their regular-season defeats. They've already toppled Florida and Georgia in the first two rounds.

2:19 — Brooke Jacobs is giving Courtney Alexander a torrid time down the right. The Carolina winger is beating the LSU defender consistently for pace and Potts is having to drift over to help cover.

2:20 — Clarke goes on an unbelievable run from midfield burning down the near sideline before cutting inside. SC hacks it free from her feet, but Boudreau ends up with it and smashes it wide.

 2:20 — Injury timeout, LSU player down at the top of the box. It looks to be Carlie Banks.

 2:21 — The freshman forward gets to her feet and walks off with the help of the training staff. Rachel Yepez takes her place on the pitch.

 2:23 — Grimsley is given far too much space to work with on the far sideline and jinks around Potts, but her angle is very sharp and the shot that gets around Isom hits the side netting.

 2:23 — 15 minutes gone, 0-0

2:24 — LSU has looked very jittery early on and their defense is having some issues dealing with the pace of Jacobs and Grimsley.

 2:25 — Grimsley has her way with a few defenders, sending a ball through to Jacobs who runs to the endline and wins a corner.

2:25 — Over everyone but the wind carries it back to a SC defender, who drives a shot into the arms of Isom from distance.

2:26 — Kim Miller plays an exquisite ball into the area, but Diaz-Matosas chests it down with a bad touch and it goes too far in front of her.

2:28 — Jacobs and Grimsley combine well to win another corner.

2:29 — The set-piece delivery from South Carolina has been a little off thus far. The wind is certainly playing a factor with the flags whipping furiously.

2:29 — Grimsley is double-teamed in the box and the SC forward pushes Alexander to the ground for a Gamecock foul.

2:31 — Clarke wins LSU's first corner and, from soon thereafter, Boudreau is hacked to the ground and a penalty is given!

2:31 — Clarke to take.

2:31 — GOAL - Melissa Clarke (PK) - LSU

2:32 — Off the post, Patton barely moves. Melissa Clarke gives LSU the lead very much against the run of play.

2:32 — Television timeout.

2:33 — It's going to be really interesting to see how South Carolina responds to that setback.

2:34 — They had been dominating play up until conceding that corner. But when LSU scores, it tends to rain goals...

2:34 — Oddly enough, a penalty has been given in all three of SC's matches in Orange Beach so far.

2:35 — This is a South Carolina team that really isn't built to come from behind, although they did do it twice against Georgia on Wednesday.

2:36 — Yepez makes her presence known down the near sideline, but Fahey is able to hold her off for a goal kick. Under 20 minutes to play in the half.

2:38 — Clarke is now playing centrally up front, with Rutledge on the left and Yepez on the right.

2:40 — That penalty has seemed to disrupt South Carolina's rhythm to a certain extent, they seem to be playing a lot faster than they want to.

2:40 — Boudreau fires a low shot wide of the post.

2:40 — IN - Carreno, OUT - Boudreau (LSU)

2:41 — Winds are approaching 16 mph+ today in Orange Beach and figure to only get worse as the day goes along. Not a day for teams playing direct, although both sides like to play possession soccer.

2:42 — Carreno is playing higher up the line now, with Yepez slipping centrally and Clarke dipping into midfield.

2:42 — You have to admire the variety of looks this LSU Tiger team can give you in attack, very hard to defend against.

2:43 — IN - Watts, Petroni, OUT - Diaz-Matosas, K. Rhoades (SC)

2:43 — Just under 13 minutes left, still LSU 1-0

2:45 — South Carolina now enjoying a spell of possession. Can they make anything of it?

2:46 — Grimsley wins a corner kick off of Potts.

2:46 — The ball is drilled in but headed clear mightily by the Tigers.

2:48 — LSU foul gives South Carolina a free kick about 40 yards out.

2:49 — Miller aims it at the far post and it's met with a nice South Carolina header, but it's a little too high and goes off the top of the net.

2:49 — South Carolina seems to have settled back down. Bad news? There's less than seven minutes left to play in the half now.

2:50 — Alarm bells ringing as Rutledge wins a one-on-one before lifting a ball into Clarke's path. Clarke delivers to Yepez, who tries to lift across the face of goal for Carreno but SC scrambles it away.

2:51 — Clarke plays the corner short and drives endline. The ball ends up with Carreno, who fires wide.

2:53 — It's getting chippy. Rutledge throws a defender down, not called. Mattern shoves an attacker down, not called. Patton shoulderblocks Carreno while rising for a ball. Not Called.

2:53 — IN - Fligg, OUT - Jacobs (SC)

2:55 — One minute left.

2:57 — HALFTIME - #2 LSU 1, #4 South Carolina 0

2:57 — For all their domination in the first 20 minutes, South Carolina didn't manage a shot on goal.

2:58 — LSU have looked a lot calmer since Clarke's penalty and have looked likelier to score sense.

3:00 — STATS: SHOTS: LSU - 5, SC - 1 ... SOG: LSU - 1, SC - 0 ... CK: LSU - 3, SC - 2 ... FOULS: LSU - 5, SC 2

3:01 — That goal by LSU was Melissa Clarke's 11th of the season. If this result holds up, she'd be a good bet for tournament Most Outstanding Player, although Malorie Rutledge would deserve some consideration as well.

3:02 — Winds may end up hitting close to 30 mph by the end of the match. Yes, there is a hurricane approaching.

3:04 — This match has an entirely different feel than last season's final when Georgia and Tennessee both were battling on the bubble and Tennessee had to win the final to get into the tournament. Both LSU and South Carolina are comfortably in the field but are fighting for a national seed and the right to possibly host next week weekend (first & second rounds).

3:04 — Hosting a regional would be huge for both sides, who have very imposing homefield advantages.

3:06 — Neither side has dipped into their bench all that much after a half. LSU has only used two subs, South Carolina three.

3:07 — An intriguing question is whether Carlie Banks will return after going down injured in the first half. The freshman seemed to be able to walk off on her own power fine.

3:14 — LSU are 45 minutes from glory. Could we actually avoid a shootout for the first time in an SEC Tournament since 2005?

3:14 — South Carolina will attack from right to left in the second half, LSU from left to right.

3:14 — The second half is under way.

3:15 — Early SC foul gives LSU a free kick from 45 yards.

3:15 — Boudreau floats it in but it's headed away.

3:16 — Banks is indeed out on the pitch for the beginning of the half.

3:16 — Miller has a handful of Clarke's jersey and is whistled for the foul. Perhaps a little lucky to not be booked.

3:17 — Lagow's free kick is headed away easily by SC.

3:19 — Grimsley is being forced deeper into midfield than she probably would like. The LSU defenders are muscling her around pretty well.

3:21 — You'd have to say that LSU is doing a fabulous job of stopping the Carolina counterattack game that gave Georgia and Florida fits in earlier matches.

3:22 — Foul on Jacobs near the top of the area.

3:22 — YELLOW CARD - Potts - LSU

3:22 — Potts is carded for the foul on Jacobs.

3:22 — Miller stands over it from 25...

3:22 — She runs over it and Diaz-Matosas blasts it over the bar.

3:24 — The pace of the match has accelerated here in the first 10 minutes of the second half. A sense of urgency has swept over the Gamecocks.

3:26 — Almost 1-1.

3:27 — A far-post cross has Isom struggling, with the keeper ending up on the ground. Luckily Bush is able to get above Diaz-Matosas and head the ball behind for a corner.

3:27 — Headed behind for another corner.

3:28 — Played short with a one-two with Grimsley. Diaz-Matosas goes to ground under a pair of challenges by the Tigers, but the ref waves play on much to the ire of the South Carolina fans.

3:29 — Jacobs finds Diaz-Matosas a few yards from goal, but Bush harasses her just enough to force a weak shot at Isom.

3:29 — IN - Yepez, OUT - Murphy (LSU)

3:30 — Half an hour left to play in regulation. Jacobs does well to spin around a defender but opts for a long shot which curves well wide.

3:30 — IN - Brewer, OUT - Diaz-Matosas (SC)

3:30 — You get the feeling that we haven't seen the end of the scoring today.

3:32 — IN - Carreno, OUT - Rutledge (LSU)

3:32 — LSU's shining star takes a seat.

3:33 — Brewer gets onto the end of a ball with a header, but it's right at Isom who claims safely.

3:33 — Small creates some space for herself but fires a long shot right at Isom.

3:33 — LSU is forcing the Gamecocks into long shots and none of them have looked too troubling to Isom thus far.

3:34 — IN - Kill, OUT - Grimsley (SC)

3:34 — An interesting move. How long can South Carolina afford to keep their offensive talisman on the bench?

3:35 — Almost a nightmare for South Carolina. A series of backpasses puts them in danger and Patton stumbles, almost letting Yepez in.

3:36 — Under 25 minutes left to play in the half.

3:36 — IN - Diaz-Matosas, OUT - Bigbie (SC), IN - Murphy, OUT - Boudreau (LSU)

3:37 — Mattern opts for a long blast, but it's easily handled by Isom.

3:38 — The Tigers are being forced on their heels right now. Can they afford to soak up all this pressure for another 20 minutes?

3:40 — Mattern almost plays Jacobs in with a long ball over the top, but the deflection falls back to Small who shanks a ball well wide.

3:40 — Television timeout.

3:41 — South Carolina are slowly climbing ahead on the statsheet, but most of their efforts are tame shots right at Mo Isom.

3:41 — LSU haven't really put much together offensively after the half and may be content to just defend. Nerves are tightening to be sure.

3:42 — IN - Rutledge, OUT - Yepez (LSU)

3:43 — At least four or five subs for Carolina. Grimsley and Diaz-Matosas are amongst the Gamecocks back on the pitch.

3:44 — LSU knows the drill with Grimsley: double-teaming her ruthlessly as the minutes tick down.

3:44 — Goodness. Rutledge hammers a shot from around 40 yards that just misses wide of the post. Almost 2-0 there.

3:44 — IN - Boudreau, OUT - Banks (LSU)

3:46 — Controversy. Jacobs works around her marker and cuts inside, whipping a cross that is caught by Isom. The ball looks to be headed out of her hands and into the back of the net, but the referee waves it off for a foul on Isom.

3:46 — Grimsley is taken down on the far side and is incensed at the lack of a foul call.

3:47 — Long ball from South Carolina down the far sideline is just a little too far for Grimsley.

3:48 — IN - Small, OUT - Watts (SC)

3:48 — Bush blocks beautifully after a long shot from Mattern looks to be headed to the far post.

3:49 — 15 minutes left for South Carolina to find an equalizer.

3:49 — IN - Lubin, OUT - Carreno (LSU)

3:49 — Lubin charges up the line with her first touches and wins a corner for the Tigers.

3:50 — Rutledge uses some nice footwork to buy herself time and fires a tantalizing cross across the face of goal, but nobody can get a head to it.

3:51 — Rhoades skips over a challenge before playing in Jacobs, who crosses for Grimsley, but Lagow is there in the nick of time to head behind.

3:53 — Free kick for Carolina near midfield on the sideline.

3:54 — Oh dear. The free kick manages to drop down to Grimsley, who takes a few too many touches with a wide-open shooting lane. The ball falls back to Kourtney Rhoades, whose shot is scuffed.

3:54 — SC are starting to throw numbers forward as time ticks away. Can they find a goal?

3:54 — Nine-and-a-half minutes left.

3:55 — Mattern is playing higher up the pitch, as SC looks desperately for an equalizer.

3:57 — Oh-so-close on the counterattack. Grimsley is given space for maybe the first time all afternoon and she slots it to Mattern, but the finish is a soft one, gathered easily by Isom low.

3:58 — Jacobs rushes down the far sideline but can't get around the doubleteam in the corner and LSU clears.

3:58 — Free kick for Carolina on the far side of the box.

3:59 — The ball is carried by the wind well over the goal

3:59 — IN - Fahey, OUT - Bigbie (SC)

3:59 — Four-and-a-half minutes

4:00 — Lubin and Murphy try to maintain possession near the flag.

4:01 — A cross by Rutledge ends up dropping in front of a few LSU players, but Patton slides low and claims.

4:01 — Two minutes left to play.

4:01 — GOAL - Mattern (Grimsley) - SC

4:01 — UNBELIEVABLE!

4:02 — The South Carolina captain plays a one two with Grimsley and Blakely Mattern just manages to sneak it around Isom, and the despairing LSU defense can't sweep it off the line in time!

4:02 — 1-1 with under two minutes to play

4:03 — LSU just hanging on for extra time at the moment.

4:04 — 45 seconds left.

4:04 — END OF REGULATION - #2 LSU 1, #4 South Carolina 1

4:05 — They could hardly have left it any later. It certainly wasn't a defender's finish from the feet of Blakely Mattern.

4:07 — What is with these Gamecocks? They came back with 10 minutes left against Georgia and now with two minutes left, they have rallied back from 1-0 down in the final.

4:07 — Can LSU recover mentally after being so close to victory? They were clearly on the back foot for most of the second half.

4:08 — This is the first SEC Title game to go into overtime since 2004 when Florida beat Tennessee 2-1.

4:09 — The sun begins to set in Orange Beach, as both sides come out for overtime. You'd have to think momentum is with South Carolina. They attack left to right. LSU attacks right to left.

4:10 — Diaz-Matosas crosses towards goal and Jacobs beats Isom in the air to the ball,  but the header is onto the roof of the net.

4:12 — Miller almost plays Grimsley through, but it's swept away just in time to prevent a corner kick.

4:12 — A cross comes flying in and Isom flaps at it, but Diaz-Matosas can't get onto the end of it.

4:13 — It's all South Carolina at the moment.

4:13 — Jacobs plays it over the top, just a little too far for Grimsley, who gives Jacobs the thumbs-up for the idea.

4:14 — GREAT SAVE BY ISOM! The ball is dropped into the feet of Small in space, but Isom comes off her line with a sliding save.

4:14 — Five minutes left in the first overtime.

4:15 — IN - Yepez, Boudreau, OUT - Alexander, Murphy (LSU)

4:15 — Foul on LSU near midfield, on Lagow.

4:17 — Isom saves the day again. Grimsley uses fancy footwork to shake free and pass back to Kortney Rhodes, who blasts it but Isom punches it over.

4:18 — LSU's defense is really shaky at the back. South Carolina is getting more and more open looks.

4:18 — 90 seconds left in the first overtime.

4:18 — IN - Lubin, Carreno, OUT - Yepez, Banks (LSU)

4:19 — Both of LSU's preferred center forwards are subbed out. Fatigue?

4:20 — END OF FIRST OVERTIME

4:23 — The wind is absolutely overpowering, as we begin the second overtime.

4:23 — LSU are now playing with Alexander, Banks, and Rutledge up top.

4:24 — Now it's Patton's turn to save the day. Clarke dribbles her way to through the SC defense and hits a shot hard and high, but Patton leaps at full-stretch and beats it away.

4:24 — The corner dips to Potts, but she makes poor contact letting Patton gather.

4:25 — Corner kick South Carolina.

4:25 — The ball fell to Diaz-Matosas and ended up coming off the back heel of Mattern, but nobody could pounce on the rebound and LSU breathe a sigh of relief once more.

4:26 — Bush makes a game-saving clear as Grimsley played a through ball into the box with Isom stranded. Corner.

4:27 — With the wind, you have to wonder why some of these corners aren't being played short. It's impossible to guide aerial balls today.

4:27 — Five minutes left in overtime.

4:28 — Free kick at midfield for LSU

4:29 — Rutledge sprays it out to Clarke, who works around a defender and wins a corner.

4:29 — IN - Carreno, OUT - Banks (LSU), IN - Watts, OUT - Rhoades (SC)

4:29 — Correction: deep throw. Comes to nothing.

4:30 — Two minutes left to play. We look destined for penalties.

4:31 — One minute left to play.

4:32 — Corner kick with 40 seconds left for LSU. Cleared away.

4:32 — END OF SECOND OVERTIME - #2 LSU 1, #4 South Carolina 1

4:32 — Looks like we couldn't escape penalties after all.

4:33 — You would think that the bigger, rangier Isom would give LSU the advantage in the shootout, but that wasn't the case last season in the semifinal against Tennessee when the Tigers came up short.

4:34 — The final hasn't been decided on penalties since 2003, the only time it has happened until today.

4:35 — The trophy and individual awards have been carried out to the sideline. The nervous energy around the stadium has increased in a serious way.

4:36 — The penalties will be taken at the clock-end of the pitch, to the left side of the pressbox.

4:38 — SC - Diaz-Matosas - SCORES (1-0) (low, placed left)

4:39 — LSU - Lagow - MISSED (1-0) (wide right)

4:40 — SC - Miller - SCORES (2-0) (low, placed left)

4:40 — LSU - Boudreau - SCORES (2-1) (placed mid-right)

4:41 — SC - Mattern - SCORES (3-1) (power mid-left)

4:41 — LSU - Lowe - SCORES (3-2) (placed right)

4:42 — SC - Small - SCORES (4-2) (low, placed left)

4:42 — LSU - Clarke - SCORES (4-3) (low, placed right)

4:42 — Grimsley can win it...

4:43 — SC - Grimsley - MISSED (4-3) (SAVED BY ISOM, MID-LEFT)

4:44 — LSU - Carreno - SCORES (4-4) (placed low left)

4:44 — SC - K. Rhoades - SCORES (5-4) (power mid-right)

4:45 — LSU - Johnson - SCORES (5-5) (power mid-left)

4:45 — Johnson nearly sends it through the back of the net. Great penalty.

4:46 — SC - B. Rhoades - SCORES (6-5) (low center)

4:47 — LSU - Alexander - SCORES (6-6) (power high-left)

4:47 — SC - Jacobs - SCORES (7-6) (placed low left)

4:48 — LSU - Isom - SCORES (7-7) (placed low left)

4:48 — SC - Kill - SCORES (8-7) (placed low right)

4:49 — LSU - Potts - MISSED (8-7) (saved by Patton, low left)

4:49 — SOUTH CAROLINA WINS THE SEC TOURNAMENT ON PENALTIES, 8-7.

4:50 — Bedlam doesn't do it justice folks. The Gamecocks are celebrating wildly on the pitch. with the giant SEC placcard.

4:50 — Heartbreak for LSU. What a drama-filled final.

4:51 — You'd have to say South Carolina deserved it on the afternoon, but LSU gave it their all.

4:51 — Stay tuned for announcement of the all-SEC Tournament Team and the most outstanding player.

4:52 — Just two minutes away from defeat, South Carolina turns the match on its head and wins their first trophy.

4:56 — SEC All-Tournament Team: Auburn - Katy Frierson (M), Sammy Towne (D) ... Florida - Katie Fraine (G), Lauren Hyde (D) ... LSU - Malorie Rutledge (M), Melissa Clarke (M), Nikki Bush (D) ... South Carolina - Kayla Grimsley (F), Kim Miller (M), Lindsay Small (M), SEC Tournament MOP - Blakely Mattern (D)

4:57 — No doubting the Gamecocks now. They've avenged all three of their defeats in the regular season and will be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament.

4:59 — Final Stats: Shots: SC - 11, LSU - 6 ... SOG: SC - 7, LSU - 1 ... CK: SC - 9, LSU - 5 ... FOULS: LSU - 11, SC - 6

5:03 — South Carolina are SEC Tournament Champs! Good night from Orange Beach! 

 editor@collegesoccer360.com