MORROW, GA – The North Georgia men's soccer team
proved to be the comeback kids on Saturday afternoon, rallying with
three straight goals, including the double overtime clincher as the
Saints knocked off Belmont Abbey 3-2 on the final day of the
Clayton State Laker Shootout.
North Georgia picks up their first win of the year and stay unbeaten on the season at 1-0-1 overall, while Belmont Abbey drops both of their games at the weekend tournament, falling to 0-2 against Peach Belt Conference competition.
The Crusaders could not have asked for a better start to the game, cruising along until the 23rd minute when Jose Penaloza received a cross at the top of the box and sent a shot that found the back of the net past North Georgia goalkeeper Rade Tanaskovic, giving the Abbey a 1-0 advantage.
The Saints lapsed in defense again just 90 seconds later as a foul in the box awarded Belmont Abbey a penalty kick and junior midfielder Jack Reid stepped up and delivered his team a 2-0 lead in the 24th minute.
North Georgia was far from finished however, as senior defender Chris Aiken found a pass from Mikki Bozickovic and recorded his first collegiate goal in the 30th minute to cut the deficit in half at 2-1.
The Saints went right back to work after the ensuing kickoff, taking control as sophomore Juan Hurtado sent a pass into the top of the box, finding the foot of freshman Ben Stegman who sent a shot that eluded Belmont Abbey goalkeeper Louis Liberatore for the equalizer. The surge of goals came just 19 seconds apart, knotting the score at 2-2 and shifting the momentum heading into intermission.
After the slew of goals in the first half, defense took over in the second period as both teams were held scoreless when the regulation buzzer sounded. The same score remained after a 15-minute overtime period, leaving North Georgia with glimpses of another double overtime deadlock, but a pair of veterans had different plans heading to the second extra period.
With less than 10 minutes to play in the second overtime, Bozickovic slipped a pass through the defense, finding senior captain Ben Chedgy in the box who delivered the golden goal at the 111:11 mark, giving North Georgia their first victory of the season with a 3-2 double overtime thriller.
The Saints held an edge in shots (17-9), and corner kicks (9-4), while the North Georgia defense continued to shine, allowing just three shots on goal, which resulted in a single save for Tanaskovic.
Pat Parris' crew will now shift their attention to Wednesday evening's home opener against Lenoir-Rhyne, hosting the Bears with a 5:00 p.m. kickoff at the North Georgia Soccer Complex.