Where South Carolina’s seasons stood before the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak
March 16, 2020
South Carolina athletics came to a halt last week as all team activities and competition were shut down until at least April 15 because of the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak. That, and the NCAA canceling winter and spring championships, meant a set of seasons were either ended early, had every remaining scheduled even canceled or interrupted without much sense as to if and how things might resume.
Here’s a look at where some promising seasons stood when they were interrupted:
Dawn Staley’s squad had arguably the most exciting season of all USC sports cut short the Gamecocks were set to be named the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament after going 32-1 overall, 16-0 in the SEC, claiming both regular season and conference titles. Staley and star forward Aliyah Boston were named SEC Coach of the Year and Freshman of the Year, and ESPN gave them national recognition for both of those awards as well. Senior guard Tyasha Harris was named first-team All-SEC, and senior forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan was leading the team in scoring. After helping USC win its first national title as freshman in 2017, they were set to lead another potentially deep postseason run when the NCAA tournament was canceled.
Coach Mark Kingston’s club was entering SEC play at 12-4, with two disappointing series losses to Northwestern and Clemson but winners of five in a row, including a sweep of Cornell. Set to open things up against a Tennessee squad slipping a bit in the rankings, the Gamecocks were hoping to keep that momentum going and build its NCAA tournament case after missing the postseason last season. Staff ace Carmen Mlodzinski, a projected top-10 pick in the MLB draft, was 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA in four starts and is a strong candidate to turn pro this year. Sophomores Wes Clarke and Brady Allen were leading the lineup in home runs and batting average, respectively. The Gamecocks have 18 regular season games and the conference tournament still yet to be canceled.
A promising season was wiped away as the Gamecocks had come in third at the IJGA Collegiate Invitational in February and sixth at the Darius Rucker Invitational. They were set for two more tournaments, one in Athens, Georgia and another in Browns Summit, North Carolina before the SEC tournament. Both those regular season tournaments are canceled, and the SEC event came right after the end of the April 15 deadline. South Carolina was No. 9 in the most recent GolfWeek rankings, with freshman Pau Roussin-Bouchard ranked No. 5 in the country, and Ana Pelaez and Lois Kaye Go also in the top 50.
Beverly Smith’s team was coming off a pair of mid-week wins and a series loss at Georgia, but had been in solid shape at 17-6. USC was ranked No. 16 nationally in the most recent USA Today coaches poll. The team was led offensively by Haley Simpson, Kenzi Maguire, Lauren Stewart and others, while Karsen Ochs and Karly Heath were the team’s most-used pitchers after Kelsey Oh was lost for the year. The team had 10 games that have yet to be canceled. South Carolina had gone to seven consecutive NCAA tournaments.
Frank Martin’s squad was set to play its opener in the SEC tournament when word came down canceling that event and soon enough the whole of March Madness. The Gamecocks sat at 18-13, likely needing a run to the SEC tournament final to have an outside chance at an at-large spot and realistically needing to win the auto-bid to ensure a trip. They still would have been a likely NIT participant for the first time since 2016. The Gamecocks finished with their fourth season at .500 or better in five years, but also were a long shot to a second NCAA tournament berth in Martin’s eighth year. (USC has made one NCAA tournament since 2004.)
The Gamecocks were sitting at 8-4 on the season and 4-0 in the SEC, including wins against top-50 teams in LSU, Texas A&M, Alabama and Auburn. They were No. 19 in the most recent ITA rankings. The team is led by Megan Davies (No. 25 in the country), Mia Horvit (No. 39) and Emma Shelton (No. 92), plus the No. 24 doubles pairing in the country. The SEC’s cancellation through April 15 encompasses the rest of the regular season and start of the conference tournament.
WOMEN’S BEACH VOLLEYBALL
South Carolina had struggled early in the season, posting a 5-7 record, 1-3 in conference play. They had upset No. 4 Southern Cal, and beat other ranked teams in College of Charleston, Long Beach State and Stetson. USC was ranked No. 14 in the final poll of the season. The full rest of the season had been canceled.
TRACK AND FIELD
The spring season had not yet started, and the winter season had not even wrapped, as the NCAA indoor championships set for last weekend were canceled. There are two meets, the USC Open and Penn Relays, still on the schedule after the SEC’s moratorium on play until April 15, but teams cannot train between now and then. The NCAA outdoor championships in late May have been canceled, but the SEC championships in mid-May have not been canceled yet.
The Gamecocks were No. 3 in the country as of the most recent rankings. They held a 7-5 record, but had recently knocked off top-5 teams in Georgia and Texas A&M. The losses included a pair to No. 1 Auburn and one to No. 2 Oklahoma State. USC had capped the regular season with a win against Delaware State and were headed into the now-canceled SEC Championship.
South Carolina’s last action of the season was finishing ninth at the 2020 Hackler Championship in Myrtle Beach. USC came in seventh in its other spring event. The Gamecocks were No. 37 nationally, according to the GolfWeek rankings. Senior Jamie Wilson was the No. 57 player in the country.
The Gamecocks were sitting at 9-5, No. 18 in the latest Oracle/ITA rankings. They’d topped ranked Oklaoma and Georgia and three of the five losses were to top-10 teams. South Carolina sat at 2-2 in conference. Defending national singles champion Paul Jubb was the No. 5-ranked player in the country, with a 7-4 record.