Surpassing Their Goals

Women's soccer celebrates its best season yet since joining Division I

The USC Upstate women's soccer team under new head coach Sharif Saber enjoyed its most successful season to date in the Division I era.

USC Upstate women's soccer had a historic year with the most successful season in its Division I era. The Spartans finished second in the Big South conference, and collected Goalkeeper of the Year, Freshman of the Year, and Coach of the Year honors for the very first time.

Upstate went 9-4-4 on the regular season, while finishing with a 6-2-1 Big South conference record. The Spartans downed some opponents such as High Point University, for the first time in program history, while beating others, such as Radford, for the first time on the road.

The 2022 season marked the best season since Upstate joined the Big South in 2018 (11-9). The Spartans achieved a .647 winning percentage, the best in the program’s Division I era. Of the nine recorded victories during the season, six were against Big South opponents, the most conference wins in the program’s D1 era. Its No. 2 seed in the Big South tournament was also the highest in program history, surpassing the team’s No. 6 seed in its previous tournament appearance.

Throughout the season, several Spartans collected Big South weekly awards for their performances. Cora Brendle and Dara Russo each received three Big South weekly honors, while Emily Rangel earned the first Big South honor of her career. Brendle and Russo earned two of their honors in back-to-back weeks in October.

Following the conclusion of the regular season, Upstate gathered seven postseason awards. Brendle was named the Goalkeeper of the Year, while Russo was named Freshman of the Year. Head coach Sharif Saber was named the Coach of the Year after his successful first year with the Spartans. Brendle was also named to the All-Conference First Team, along with Alaina McKnight.

Russo was named to the All-Conference Second Team and the All-Freshman Team. Ashley Finn received an honorable mention for the second year in a row, while also being named to the All-Academic Team.

In addition to the postseason honors, Brendle and Emily Sanders were named to the Big South All-Tournament Team for their efforts during the semifinal match against Radford.

Several Spartans carved their names into the Upstate women's soccer record books with their performance over the season. Sanders had two assists in a single game, not just once, but twice, during the season (against Longwood and S.C. State). Her five total assists are the most in program history in a single season, surpassing Montana Hill's four (2018).

Russo is tied for tenth overall with Nora Vangsnes (2021) in shots in a single game, after she took six shots against both Furman and Presbyterian. She also claims the fifth-place spot for shots in a season (48), surpassing Michelle Calmeyn, who had 42 (2011). Additionally, Russo ties for seventh place for shots on goal in a season (20) with Kenzie Major (2013). The freshman ties with Ashley Finn (2021) for third place overall for game-winning goals in a season (3).

Finn finds her way into the rankings after going 1-1 on penalty kicks this year, which ties her for fourth overall for penalty kicks. Finn, McKnight, and Brendle all tied for eighth overall for games started with Montana Hill (2018), Emma Honis (2018), and Ciara Murphy (2015).

Brendle places tenth overall for saves (79), just above Brittany Daughtery (74, in 2009), while also ranking fourth for goals against average (0.88, 15 GA/1,540 mins), just above Samantha Munyon with a 1.24 average (10 GA/725 in 2018). She also ties for first for goalkeeper's games started, with 18 games started, next to Rachell Collins (2018), and is ranked third for goalkeeper minutes played, with 1,540, surpassing Sarah Plantz (2013). The junior set a few records as well, with the most wins in a single season (9), breaking the previous record of four that she set in 2021, and the most shutouts in a single season (6), surpassing the five by Sarah Plantz in 2013.