The game-tying goal was just inches from crossing the goal line in the waning seconds, but it would not cross, leaving the Georgia Gwinnett women’s soccer team’s comeback bid just short in a 3-2 defeat to Faulkner (Ala.) on opening day of the 2014 season on Sunday afternoon in Lawrenceville.
After spotting the Eagles a 3-0 lead through 70 minutes of play, the Grizzlies scored twice over a seven-minute span with pair of goals by sophomore Nikki LeFevre.
With GGC pressing for the equalizer, a bouncing ball on a cross from Jaclyn Bailey with under 15 seconds to play had gotten past the Faulkner goalkeeper, but a defender cleared the ball away in traffic at the last moment to preserve the lead and the Eagle win.
The Grizzlies outshot their opponent, 18-11, including an 8-4 tally on target, but Faulkner’s Cate Eden made five saves as the Eagles improved to 2-1 on the season.
Georgia Gwinnett fell to 0-1 in what will be its only home game over the first four weeks of the season.
“We didn’t get in any kind of a groove or rhythm today,” said Grizzlies head coach Domenic Martelli. “The reality is it was one of the worst performances we’ve had in a while. We made a few adjustments and we got some players in the game who were hungry. They worked hard, got in, created chances and finished. The two goals were nice, but being down 3-0 was just too much of a hole that we dug ourselves.”
Faulkner opened the scoring just over six minutes into the contest, as Janina Mueller’s header off a corner kick glanced off the Grizzly defense and into the net for the first goal.
It would be the only goal of the opening half as the Grizzlies mustered six shots but could not draw even.
The Eagles again scored quickly to start the second half. As Kassandra Carpintero worked her way to the end line just three minutes in, a cross deflected off the outstretched arm of GGC goalkeeper and to a waiting Katie Eaton for a 2-0 lead.
Another tally in the 69th minute when Kayla Wilson converted on a feed from Ana Derrico made it 3-0 for the visitors.
The Grizzlies, who used 19 players in the contest, finally started to get things going offensively. After one shot bounced off the crossbar and another on target was headed away by the Faulker defense, GGC got on the board in the 77th minute. Georgia Barton pushed a long ball ahead that LeFevre tipped away from a charging Eden and put it away for the Grizzlies’ first goal of the season.
The sophomore from McDonough wasn’t done scoring, converting on a set piece situation in the 84th minute as the Grizzlies kept charging. As Tiffany Rodriguez was taken down just steps outside the box to earn a free kick, Bristol Countess put a shot on goal and the rebound fell right to LeFevre, who buried it to make it 3-2.
As the Grizzlies pushed for the tying goal over the final minutes, the chance in the closing seconds was as close to the equalizer as GGC would get.
“Today I know we learned a lot,” added Martelli. “The biggest thing is to play our way and play our style. We have a whole week to get ready for our two games this weekend and we need to get two wins.”