The Georgia women's soccer team was a mediocre 10-9 last season, and Parkview grad Marah Falle admitted she didn't know what to expect this season.
She thought the Bulldogs would do well, but they've surpassed expectations so far, partly because of the outstanding play of Falle, who was named SEC Freshman of the Week and to the Soccer America National Team of the Week earlier this week.
The honors came for Falle after she scored the game-winning goal against No. 15 Florida and another goal vs. No. 12 South Carolina that forced overtime.
"It was exciting definitely, to score in big games like that," Falle said. "But getting a win was even better than scoring the goals."
Both tallies helped Georgia to unprecedented heights. The team entered Friday with a 9-1 record, the best start in school history, and the defeats of Florida and South Carolina marked the first time in school history that the Bulldogs defeated consecutive top-15 opponents.
The win over Florida also was Georgia's first - snapping an 0-16 mark vs. the Gators - and was the first time the team defeated a ranked opponent since 2003. Falle scored in the 19th minute against Florida, staking her team to a 2-0 lead that was cut by a Gator goal in the 60th minute.
The game-winning goal was Falle's second this season. The freshman is tied for the team-lead with five goals, and also has an assist.
Georgia added a thrilling victory last Sunday over South Carolina with the help of Falle, who scored with 11 minutes left in regulation to force overtime. The Bulldogs won 2-1 in double overtime.
"We are excited about Marah's talents and feel she performed very well in her first weekend of SEC play," Georgia head coach Patrick Baker said. "Her ability to create and score goals makes everyone around her better. She has a tremendous work ethic and some of her best soccer on the weekend didn't result in either goal."
Falle, who is joined on the Georgia roster by fellow freshman and North Gwinnett grad Tori Carroll, entered the program with hopes of playing immediately. It was a bit of a transition, but the 2007 Daily Post Player of the Year has shown she belongs in a major way.
"It was a lot faster and the girls are a lot stronger," Falle said of the college game. "I get pushed off the ball a lot more in college. I need to work on getting stronger. And it's definitely a lot faster. But it's gone pretty well."
Maurer gets Conference USA award
South Carolina freshman goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, a St. Pius grad and Lawrenceville resident, was named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.
Maurer made six saves in a 1-0 shutout of Alabama-Birmingham, notching his fourth shutout of the year. He has a 0.89 goals against average with 43 saves.
English wins second weekly honor
Brookwood grad Jessica English was named the Peach Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Tuesday for the second time this season.
English had two overtime shutouts, logging 210 minutes in goal, the previous week in games vs. Erskine and South Carolina-Aiken.
Flagler moving up conference lists
With 11 catches for 153 yards last Saturday vs. Austin Peay, Gardner-Webb wide receiver DuVaughn Flagler continues climbing the Big South Conference career charts.
The Norcross grad moved into second place in Big South history in both receptions and yardage last weekend, leaving the game with 158 catches for 2,148 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Sam shines in UTEP win
Buford grad Lorne Sam stood out in Texas-El Paso's exciting, 48-45 win over SMU last Saturday.
Sam had nine rushes for 106 yards and two TDs and caught five passes for 88 yards. He also was 1-for-3 passing.
Kenney gets NJCAA award
Garden City Community College (Kan.) freshman Cameron Kenney, a Dacula grad, was named the National Junior College Athletic Association Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts in a 46-3 win over Highlands CC.
Kenney caught four passes for 50 yards, had a 33-yard run and a 51-yard punt return TD. He also made all four of his extra points, two field goals and a two-point conversion run.
Kessenich tops milestone
Central Gwinnett grad Jenna Kessenich had her 1,000th career kill in Brewton-Parker's volleyball match last month vs. Fort Valley State.
The senior is joined on the Brewton-Parker team by her younger sister Sara.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or via fax to 770-339-8081.