September 12, 2011

Saints Look to Gain Momentum this Upcoming Week

Contact: Joey Daniels,

DAHLONEGA, GA - The North Georgia men's soccer team picked up two great wins last week. The first win came against a ranked and very talented University of Tampa squad on Wednesday night, 2-1, in overtime. Max Angel hit a scorcher to the back of the net just three minutes into the overtime session and the Saints walked away with a huge non-conference win.

Then came Saturday and the first conference game at USC Aiken. The Saints almost gave a win away that they really could not afford to. But thanks to own goal in the 87th minute by the host Pacers, North Georgia left Aiken a 2-1 victor and 1-0 in PBC play.

The Saints now must look forward to the same sort of week, a non-conference opponent on Wednesday followed by another challenging conference game on Saturday. Here's what to look forward to this upcoming week for Pat Parris and his building-up-momentum Saints.

Wednesday, September 14, 5:00 PM, @ Lenoir-Rhyne. Hickory, NC

Lenoir-Rhyne University Bears

Current Record: 1-3
2010 Record: 10-8 (5-4 SAC)
Conference Prediction in 2011: 6th
Starters Lost/Returning:6/5
Goal Differential 2011/2010: 0/+11

What's Good? The Bears might have the best defender in the South Atlantic Conference in Chris Wilson. The Pre-Season All-Conference back started 17 of 18 games last year. Wilson is only entering his sophomore season so it looks as though Lenoir-Rhyne has a rock to rely on in the backfield for years to come. Sean Rogers and Chibuzo Nwosu return for the Bears combining to score 15 goals and six assists, while Rogers led the team with three game-winners. Lenoir-Rhyne has doubled up their opponents in shots on goal, 33-15. They have given themselves opportunities to win games and have been competitive in all, suffering three one-goal losses. 

What's Bad? Lenoir-Rhyne must try and replace three of their top five point scorers from a year ago, including leading scorer Nicky Matthews who finished with 12 goals. The Bears must also find a replacement in goal after the departure of Tom Heath. So far this season the results have not been friendly for the Bears, going 1-3 to start the year. In a league that is very top-heavy and has been dominated by Wingate and Anderson lately, Lenoir-Rhyne will need to outshine those top two teams to have a shot at the NCAA tournament.

How the Saints Match-up - The Saints came away with the win last season 2-1 over the visiting Bears. That score was the same two years ago, only Lenoir-Rhyne got the better of North Georgia that year. Expect much of the same game, low scoring with a goal to separate the two teams. Both play a physical kind of game and the team that capitalizes on the opportunities should get a positive result in one of their last non-conference games of the season.

Saturday, September 17, 3:30 PM, vs. UNC-Pembroke. Dahlonega, GA

University of North Carolina- Pembroke Braves

Current Overall Record: 4-0
Last Year: 5-9-4 (1-5-2 PBC)

Goal Differential 2011/2010: +19/+6
Starters Returning: 5

Conference Prediction: 6th
Regional Ranking: 6th                 

What to Make of the Hot Start: The Braves have gotten off to one of their hottest starts in recent history, going 4-0 and dismantling opponents by almost five goals per game. Quite impressive it would seem right? Not so fast. The opponents that Pembroke have beaten up on own a 1-11 combined overall record and possess a -35 goal differential. This would seem to mean two things: 1. The Braves are actually a really good team this year and are underrated in the tough Peach Belt, which means those teams better watch out or 2. Pembroke has taken advantage of a very poor out of conference schedule to start the year and what's on paper looks better than what's on the field.

Goalkeeper Situation: Pembroke started Ryan Hanson in goal all 18 games last season and he earned every decision in the sub .500 record for the Braves. Apparently that was not good enough as Hanson has been replaced by incoming freshman Joe Cullip, who has started the first four games this season. The move looks to be a successful one after all, the Braves only won five games all of last season and have already tallied four in as many games this year.

Lots of Youth: Only five upperclassmen make up this young roster for head coach Phil Hindson this year. Three freshman and three sophomores make up the top six point scorers on the team this season. The future looks like a promising one for this young squad if the roster stays intact. This season however, the experience will be against them in most matches.

Another Draw? The last two seasons the Saints and Braves played to a draw. A scoreless draw a year ago previously followed by a 1-1 score. The coaches voted the Braves and Saints middle of the pack this season with North Georgia barely catching the edge. The Saints get them in Dahlonega where they won their only home game of the season a week ago vs. Tampa.

What Gives? Both teams are coming in with a winning streak. The Braves have yet to lose coming in winning four straight, while the Saints picked up back to back wins in their last two contests. North Georgia took down a skilled and ranked Tampa squad in a dramatic overtime goal and then followed that up with their first conference win of the season at USC Aiken. The strength of the opponents to start the season favors North Georgia having played three teams from the loaded Sunshine State Conference, while Pembroke played three teams from the mediocre Conference Carolinas.

The Peach Belt: UNC Pembroke was outscored by the Peach Belt 14-5 last season on their way to winning one game and tying two. Their lone win came against Georgia Southwestern who finished in last place. Southwestern also earned their only victory of the season against North Georgia. The Saints will be looking to go 2-0 in the conference to start the season while the Braves look to get off to a good start in the PBC playing their first league game of the year. North Georgia gets them at home, a place Pat Parris hopes his Saints protect this season.