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Gwinnett grad: Becknell's transfer boosts Berry soccer to hot start

Brina Becknell's faith - she's Mormon - took the standout soccer player far away to college.

Southern Utah recruited her heavily out of Brookwood, and it seemed like the perfect fit because Becknell always thought she would go to college somewhere in Utah. But her freshman season out west didn't go as planned.

She prefers to play forward, a position she was told by coaches that she would play at Southern Utah. Instead she played mostly in the midfield in her 16 games of action, and she said it was one of "several promises" the coach broke from when they talked during recruitment.

So she transferred to Berry College for her sophomore season, and the decision looks really good - for her and her new school - just a few games into the 2006 season.

Becknell has team highs of eight goals, five assists and 21 points in just five games for the 5-1 Vikings. She was named the Region XIII and Southern States Athletic Conference Player of the Week this week after scoring the game-winning goal in her previous two matches.

"(Becknell) has just been very consistent, more than consistent," Berry coach Lorenzo Canalis said. "She has eight goals in five games, that's more than a goal a game. Which means it takes two goals to beat us. She's a big reason we're 5-1.

"I really appreciate her work rate. We have three forwards and she's the center one, and she's always making herself available for passes."

It's been a pretty fun start for Becknell, who scored two goals including the game-winner in a 4-3 win over 25th-ranked Savannah College of Art and Design last week. She also scored her team's first goal in a win over Southern Wesleyan.

The opportunity to play closer to home is nice, so her parents can attend games. She also gets to score goals, a major contrast from Southern Utah where she went without a point despite playing in 16 games.

"I haven't regretted the transfer once," Becknell said. "When I first came back, I thought, 'I hope I don't regret it.' But I haven't at all. I love the team here. I love the coaching staff. It's great."

Her team features several other Gwinnett grads who have been key contributors.

North Gwinnett grad Shannon Hackett has three goals and two assists - she had two second-half goals in the 3-0 win over Southern Wesleyan - and Duluth grad Emily Bender has one goal and four assists. Goalkeeper Paige Banham, a North grad, hasn't allowed a goal in two starts while Brookwood grad Laura Phyfer also is a contributor.

SOCCER

Moore makes mark for MLS club

Parkview grad Justin Moore stepped into the FC Dallas lineup and was an impact player during the MLS team's first-ever win over the Houston Dynamo last Saturday.

Moore, a second-round pick (15th overall) by FC Dallas in the 2006 MLS Super Draft, has played just two games with his MLS team, but made his first start a good one last weekend. His only previous experience with the first team was July 15 at Chicago.

The 23-year-old started at right back when regular starter Bobby Rhine sat because of yellow card accumulation.

"I came in pretty confident because Ronnie (O'Brien) and (Greg) Vanney talked to me before the game and gave me some support," Moore told MLSnet.com. "It also helped that (Houston) got a red card. It helped me have a little more time on the ball. I really just soaked it all up and enjoyed it."

Moore's primary task in the game was to mark Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis, who had a team-high seven assists entering the match. His teammates and coaches were impressed with how he slowed Davis down.

"I thought (Moore) did fine since he didn't know he was going to play until Thursday," All-Star midfielder Richard Mulrooney said. "He works hard and I wasn't surprised. I think the future is bright for him."

Said FC Dallas coach Colin Clarke: "I thought (Moore) did very well. He's had a good preseason, worked hard and deserved his chance. I thought he did very well tonight. He was in a back four that hasn't played together."

Locals lead Georgia State defense

Goalkeepers Charlotte Vargo and Megan Macdonald and defenders Tiffany Blackmon and Rosie O'Toole all play integral parts of a strong Georgia State women's soccer defense.

The Panthers won two shutout games last week at the Mercer LQ Cup, edging Tennessee Tech 1-0 in overtime and defeating Mercer 2-0. Vargo, a Norcross grad, and Macdonald, a Parkview grad, each played a half in the two victories. For the season, Vargo has allowed just four goals in 290 minutes (1.24 goals against average) and Macdonald hasn't allowed a goal in 97 minutes of play for the 2-2 Panthers.

Outstanding defensive play meant Vargo didn't have to make a save in the two Mercer LQ Cup matches. The unit is led by seniors Blackmon and O'Toole, graduates of North and Shiloh, respectively.

FOOTBALL

Pittman shines, but team loses debut

Brookwood grad David Pittman had an impressive debut, but his Pasadena City College squad lost a 27-26 heartbreaker to Los Angeles Valley College and saw its losing streak reach 10 games.

Pittman completed 21 of 31 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns along with rushing five times for 40 yards. Pasadena trailed 20-6, but tied the game 20-20 at halftime. Down 27-20 late in the third quarter, Pasadena got within a point on a Pittman TD pass but missed the extra point.

Quick hits

Gwinnett will have a player in each side of tonight's No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup, with Ohio State linebacker Larry Grant (a Norcross grad) and Texas kicking specialist Greg Johnson (Parkview). ... Parkview grad Joey Sturdivant's Southern Methodist football team lost its opener to Texas Tech, but the senior made six tackles (five solos) and had an interception. ... Wake Forest's 20-10 win over Syracuse last Saturday included a nice 20-carry, 142-yard rushing game from Greater Atlanta Christian grad Micah Andrews.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting the achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via e-mail to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com or via fax to 770-339-8081.