FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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DAHLONEGA, GA – The North Georgia men's soccer season came to a close on Tuesday night when they fell to the Clayton State Lakers 1-0 in the opening round of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament.
The Saints (9-7-1) had finished the regular season winning their final three games and were gaining momentum towards a postseason run, but the year ended quickly with a loss to the Lakers for the second time this year.
The game was back and forth in the first half and entered the half scoreless. The game appeared to be headed for overtime with just under 10 minutes to play. That's when Clayton State forward Ryan Pugh finished a strong header past Rade Tanaskovic and the soon-to-be game-winner. Pugh finished on a beautiful ball in by Matty Phillips, all but deflated the Saints and ending their season.
North Georgia had a couple of good shots including one by Juan Hurtado in the first half that clinked off the crossbar. Gustavo Cunha took a shot from about 20 yards that looked to be headed in before just sailing wide of the net late in the second half.
Clayton State (10-7) will now advance to the Peach Belt Conference Tournament semi-finals this Friday against Flagler. The Lakers bested North Georgia twice this season, outscoring them 5-0 on their way to another winning season.
Tanaskovic recorded seven saves in the game but picks up the loss allowing the lone goal. Lakers keeper Brian Garcia earns the victory after recording just one save.
Clayton State outshot North Georgia 23-10, and eventually capitalized on their best opportunity.
Head coach Pat Parris has to be pleased with the finish down the stretch of the season by his team. They may have needed two if not three more wins to secure themselves an NCAA bid, but the end result is an opening round loss and preparation for next year.
The Saints will lose a couple of key players in Rade Tanaskovic and Gray Phelps, along with Korey Daigle and Carlos Avendano. The better news is the players they will return. Mainstays in the starting lineup such as Max Angel, Ben Tayi, Jesy Phelps, Gustavo Cunha, Manuel Hernandez, Juan Hurtado and Chris Bishop all return for another year. With Kristopher Alonzo gaining valuable experience this season following Tanaskovic's injury, the Saints have a lot to look forward to.