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2011 has passed, but University of South Carolina Gamecocks fans will long savor it for the sweet memories.
OK, some did spill over into 2012, which USC backers won’t moan about because it was a grand start to the new year.
But 2011 was a watershed year with a flood of fond memories.
Of course, the USC baseball team provided many thrills with its second straight national championship run.
The gritty Gamecocks got it done in the face of adversity, overcoming injuries all the way to the national championship-clinching win over Southeastern Conference rival Florida.
The team wore the familiar garnet and black, but they were, in Palmetto State words, “a bunch of blue-collar ballplayers” who refused to lose.
To win a national title in any sport is quite a feat, but to repeat is an extraordinary achievement.
Coach Ray Tanner and his team got it done with clutch hitting, crucial pitching and timely defense.
The USC fans had the summer to enjoy the repeat feat in baseball, but when football rolled around, the expectations were high and the Gamecocks didn’t disappoint.
Like the baseball season, there were some anxious moments and loss of players through injuries and suspensions, but the Gamecocks showed that true teamwork and team chemistry are the marvelous mix for success.
There were some bumps in the road, but by season’s end and the dawn of a new year, the Gamecocks could crow of some USC firsts – major bowl win over a traditional college football team to go with a historic top 10 finish and a first 11th win in a season.
Loyal Gamecock fans, who have endured their share of lean seasons and longed for such success, have embraced the USC achievements.
USC trustee Hugh Mobley, a Lancaster native, noted the feeling well.
“I’ve sat in the stands when they lost 11 and I’ve sat in the stands when they won 11 and I know which won feels better,” he said.
That good feeling in 2011 included the USC soccer teams’ accolades – the men won the 2011 Conference USA crown and advanced to the NCAA tournament with its 20th appearance.
The Gamecocks women’s team won its first SEC regular season and Eastern Division titles with a program-best 9-2-0 league mark.
The USC women also advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive season.
The record-breaking season ended with a loss to eventual national champion Stanford in a year where the Gamecocks played three of the four teams in the 2011 College Cup.
The sky is the limit for USC and looking at 2012, one team on the horizon to reckon with is the USC women’s basketball team.
Coach Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks are off to their best start in years and have cracked the top 25.
The 2011 year was a great time to be a Gamecock, and early indications are that 2012 holds plenty of promise to be equally USC proud.