DAHLONEGA, GA – In what hardly felt like
a preseason contest, the Saints rallied with a goal as time expired
to force a 3-3 tie Friday evening under the lights against Southern
Wesleyan University in North Georgia’s final test before
regular season play.
The first half was scoreless until the 18th minute as Cody McKelvey sent a corner into the box that found the head of Justin Gonzales who sent the ball past a diving Leonardo Berenquel to give the Saints an early 1-0 lead.
North Georgia would push their lead to a pair just before intermission in the 44th minute on an unassisted goal by Jeff Majors as Southern Wesleyan found themselves down 2-0 at the half.
The first 30 minutes of the second half proved to be quiet as it looked like the Saints would escape with a 2-0 victory, but the Warriors had different plans, storming back in the final minutes with three unanswered goals to take a 3-2 advantage. Luis Ramirez tallied the first score of the night for Southern Wesleyan in the 76th minute, sending a penalty kick into the left corner of the goal as North Georgia goalkeeper Rade Tanaskovic dove to the right.
Southern Wesleyan struck again 10 minutes later, knotting the score at 2-2 in the 85th minute off a free kick by Nicloas Luque in the top left corner past the outstretched hand of Tanaskovic to silence the crowd. Less then four minutes later, Mario Melendez sent the Warrior bench into celebration in the 89th minute, completing a stretch of three straight goals for SWU in less then 13 minutes of play.
The Saints would be far from finished however, taking advantage of a foul just outside the box with three ticks remaining on the clock. Jaun Hurtado served the ball in the middle before McKelvey emerged from the crowd and sent a liner past Berenquel with one second remaining to force a 3-3 tie and end the contest.
Tanaskovic played all 90 minutes of action for the Saints, allowing three goals while recording six saves. Berenquel went the distance for the Warriors as well, stopping a pair of North Georgia shots, while being charged with a trio of Saints’ goals.
The Saints will open regular season action on August 27th and 29th, heading south for a Florida road trip to start the season. North Georgia will take on Florida Southern before traveling to St. Leo as the curtain will rise on the 2009 campaign for head coach Pat Parris and the Saints.