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DAHLONEGA, GA – North Georgia's reality of hosting a Peach Belt Conference Tournament game is at their fingertips as they get ready to travel to Francis Marion on Saturday for their final game of the regular season.
It's pretty simple for Pat Parris and his squad, beat Francis Marion and host a PBC Tournament game next Tuesday.
The Saints are a lock for the postseason conference tournament, which we know, but where and who they will be playing is still to be settled. None of that matters though; North Georgia needs to beat Francis Marion to play at home. There are multiple scenarios that could result in a home game for the Saints as well, but they would prefer not to let their chances rest on any other games than their own.
Francis Marion Patriots Body of Work
Current Record: 4-11-1 (2-4-1 PBC)
Goal Differential in 2011: -22
Conference Rank: 7th
Last Meeting vs. Francis Marion: North Georgia won 1-0 (October 16, 2010)
Control Their Own Destiny - Coach Parris has to love the position his team is in. A win over Francis Marion will allow his team to play a home game in the PBC Tournament, which would be a huge advantage. The Saints are a stunning 6-1 at home this season, with the only loss coming to conference champion Flagler 1-0. The Saints are staring the No. 4 overall seed in the tournament down, with a long shot at the No. 2 or No. 3. Because Montevallo, who is currently No. 2, plays Georgia Southwestern who is winless in conference and eliminated from postseason contention, the odds of passing them would seem very unlikely (especially because Montevallo holds the tie-breaker over the Saints). The No. 3 is possible however. If the Saints win and UNC Pembroke beats Lander on Saturday, the Saints would earn the No. 3 seed which would be an overall better situation to be in.
Road Revolution - Now is a better time than any for North Georgia to solve their problems on the road. Holding a gaudy 1-5-1 record away from Dahlonega, the Saints have to forget all that and approach Francis Marion like an essential playoff game. They have been outscored on the road by 11 goals, with the only win coming at USC Aiken early in the season. Francis Marion has already guaranteed themselves a spot in the PBC Tournament, most likely as a No. 7 or No. 8 seed. How ironic is it that North Georgia has to battle its struggles on the road in order to play at home next week, well see how they respond.
Blandin's Boys - Francis Marion is seemingly a one-man wrecking crew. Led by sophomore forward Alex Blandin, the Patriots rely on the striker to provide them with the scoring. Blandin has scored nine of the 15 total goals this season for his team and has scored the game-winner in all four victories. He leads the team in shots attempted with 48, 20 more than the next closest player. He has not tallied an assist all season and looks to do it all on his own. The message is clear for the Saints: stop Alex Blandin and host a tournament game.
Just Play Hard! - Forget everything that you just read above. The Saints don't need to worry about any of it. If they go out on Saturday and play hard, just like they have the past two games, the result will be sure to end their way. North Georgia won their last two games by simply outworking their opponents. A golden goal victory over Southwestern followed by a dominating 3-0 win over Lander has this team playing some of the best soccer we've seen this season. They are playing as a team, they are working harder than their opponents, and the results have been two wins and two shutouts. Throw out all the scenarios of hosting a tournament game or the struggles on the road. Travel to South Carolina on this weekend, know you have a job to do, and simply execute it. If the Saints do that at 2:00 PM this Saturday, they will love their position next Tuesday night.