Photo by Kortnie Curry
BANNER ELK, N.C. --- The University of North Georgia women's soccer team, ranked second in the Bennett Ranking Preseason National Poll, scored midway through the second half to edge Lees-McRae College in a hard-fought non-conference match on Saturday afternoon on Tate Field.
North Georgia (3-1) outshot Lees-McRae (1-3) by a 22-11 margin in the contest but was held to just seven attempts on frame by a suffocating Bobcat backline that starved the Nighthawks for space throughout the contest. The Nighthawks also held an 8-3 advantage in attempts from the corner in a physical match that featured 24 fouls (14 for North Georgia, nine for Lees-McRae, and two cautions.
Alicia Pierson (Brooksville, Fla.) got the start for the Bobcats and made six saves on seven shots, as Meagan Thornton (Millville, N.J.), Erica Allen (Norton, Ohio) and Phenix Durham (Waxhaw, N.C.) each took two attempts at goal.
Kelly Penston tallied the lone goal in the match for North Georgia, as Jessica Dacey attempted a contest-best four shots. Mallory Sayre made four saves to keep a clean sheet for the Nighthawks while Megan Morrow found the frame with each of her two attempts at goal.
The Bobcats nearly got off to a flying start in the 11th minute when Thornton's attempt from 20 yards out went just wide of the woodwork after Sarah Mahar (Jacksonville, Fla.) played a perfect ball to her in behind the North Georgia defense. Both back lines would clamp down well for the remainder of the first half, with each keeper forced into a pair of easy saves as the sides went into the interval deadlocked and scoreless.
North Georgia would net the breakthrough just past the hour mark, taking a 1-0 lead when Penston sent the finish sailing into the far corner after a loose ball fell to her just inside the area. The Nighthawks turned up the pressure over the next several minutes, forcing Pierson into a skillful stop in the 68th minute after Durham cleared Dacey's attempt off the line three minutes earlier.
The Bobcats quickly went on the counter attack, nearly leveling proceedings in the 83rd minute when Thornton made a diagonal run into the box off a short corner, and sent a curling effort inches wide of the top corner. Mahar forced Sayre into a clutch stop four minutes later, sending a driven effort toward goal from just outside the area in what would prove to be the final goalward attempt for either side in the match.
Lees-McRae returns to the pitch on Wednesday when the Bobcats travel to Wingate, N.C. to take on Wingate University in non-conference play at 5 p.m.
- LMC -