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Gwinnett grads lead North Georgia soccer to new heights

A routine Wednesday night college soccer game turned out to be a milestone one this week for the North Georgia College and State University women's soccer team.

The Saints, who rely heavily on Gwinnett talent, upset third-ranked Columbus State 1-0 for their first-ever victory over a top-five nationally ranked opponent. With a lineup featuring five local starters, North Georgia stopped Columbus State's 36-game Peach Belt Conference winning streak and handed the Cougars (13-1-1) their first conference loss since 2005.

It also continued a hot streak for North Georgia, which won its fifth straight and improved to 9-3-2.

Goalkeeper Kirsten Ross, a Parkview grad, earned the shutout of Columbus State and made four saves. Ross, who has played in seven games with five starts, has shared time in the net this season with Brookwood grad Jessica English (eight games, six starts).

Ross was joined in the North Georgia starting lineup by three Brookwood grads - Natalie Douglass, Emily Hughes and Melanie Thompson - and North Gwinnett product Kelly Penston.

Penston, a freshman, has emerged as one of the Peach Belt's top offensive players. The striker has six goals and three assists, ranking in the league's top 10 in goals, goals per game, points and points per game.

The Peach Belt Conference named Penston its offensive player of the week on Tuesday after she scored a goal each in the Saints' wins the previous week over Georgia Southwestern and Armstrong Atlantic.

Despite the loss, Columbus State still holds first place in the Peach Belt with a 6-1 record. Grayson grad Stephanie Parrish led the Cougars with three shots on goal in the upset by North Georgia.

SOCCER

Pradilla on scoring spree

Mill Creek grad Jorge Pradilla is having an exceptional season for Piedmont College, guiding the Lions to a 3-1-1 start in Great South Athletic Conference play with his offensive skills.

The most dangerous scorer in the GSAC, Pradilla has a league-best 12 goals and three assists in 13 matches. He ranks first in the league in goals and points.

His goal this past week helped Piedmont to a 3-1 win over LaGrange, while teammate Brian Ruelbach of Grayson had an assist just 42 seconds into the game.

Pradilla and Ruelbach are just two of a Gwinnett-heavy Piedmont men's soccer roster that also includes Chris Leone (Parkview), Joey Krieger (Shiloh), Michael Peterson (Parkview), Nick Weatherby (Grayson), Jake Krieger (Shiloh), Bryan Prevatte (Mill Creek), Josh Mitchum (Shiloh) and Jake Clark (North Gwinnett).

BASKETBALL

Moore, Huskies named Big East favorites

It came as no shocker this week that Connecticut forward Maya Moore, the Big East's player of the year the last two seasons, was the coaches' choice as the league's preseason player of the year.

The Collins Hill grad, who was named the Associated Press player of the year last season, averaged 19.3 points and 8.9 rebounds to guide Connecticut to a 39-0 record and sixth national championship. She was joined as a unanimous selection on the all-conference team by teammate Tina Charles.

The Huskies were predicted to win their fourth straight conference championship.

CROSS COUNTRY

Raines gets Peach Belt award

Collins Hill grad Heather Raines added another award to her stellar senior season of cross country, earning Peach Belt Conference runner of the week honors on Monday.

Raines ran the 5K SMC Invitational in 19 minutes, 50 seconds last weekend to finish just six seconds off a school record. She was ninth overall and was the top finisher among non-Division I runners, helping the Bobcats to a runner-up finish.

SWIMMING

Clemmons shines in tri-meet victory

Brookwood grad Kristen Clemmons, a freshman swimmer at Toledo, had a strong meet as her team defeated Illinois and Oakland last weekend.

Clemmons' meet was highlighted by a fourth-place swim in the 1,000 freestyle with a time of 10 minutes, 35.29 seconds.

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.

SideBar: IN FRONT OF THE CAMERAS

A quick look at where to watch former Gwinnett standouts in today's college football action:

Noon - Georgia Tech at Virginia, WUPA

For Georgia Tech, Duluth's Jason Davis (No. 45) plays defensive back, South's Zach Krish (No. 74) is an offensive lineman, Central Gwinnett's Josh Aiken-Phillips (No. 67) is an offensive lineman, Buford's Chase Hudson (No. 63) is an offensive lineman, Berkmar's Onu Okebie (No. 87) is a wide receiver, Parkview's Jared Polak (No. 27) is a linebacker, Norcross' Chris Tanner (No. 17) is a kicker and North Gwinnett's Tyler Jarry (No. 31) is a running back.

Noon - Minnesota at Ohio State, ESPN

Brookwood's David Pittman (No. 9) plays wide receiver for Minnesota. Peachtree Ridge's Cameron Heyward (No. 97) plays defensive line for Ohio State.

Noon - UAB at Marshall, CSS

For UAB, Dacula's Zach Lankford (No. 84) plays tight end, Grayson's Logan Creel (No. 72) plays offensive line, Buford's Blake Bennett (No. 54) plays offensive line, Central's Kaycee Ike (No. 60) plays offensive line, Grayson's Jim Mitchell (No. 40) plays running back and Shiloh's Justin Smartt (No. 26) plays defensive back for UAB.

12:20 p.m. - Arkansas at Ole Miss, WPCH

For Ole Miss, Parkview's Julian Whitehead (No. 28) plays defensive back, Peachtree Ridge's Brandon Sanders (No. 14) plays defensive back, Buford's Melvin Harris (No. 5) plays wide receiver, Buford's Tyler King (No. 33) plays fullback and Peachtree Ridge's Trey Trip (No. 44) plays linebacker.

12:30 p.m. - Oklahoma State at Baylor, Versus

Central Gwinnett's Beau Johnson (No. 2) plays running back for Oklahoma State.

3 p.m. - Georgia Southern at Appalachian St., SportSouth

For Georgia Southern, GAC's Lee Chapple (No. 14) plays quarterback, GAC's Josh Barker (No. 76) plays offensive line, Norcross' Dion Dubose (No. 33) plays linebacker, Shiloh's Christian Jordan (No. 43) plays defensive back, Peachtree Ridge's Mitchell Williford (No. 81) plays wide receiver and Peachtree Ridge's Paul Gordeau (No. 68) plays offensive line.

3:30 p.m. - Tennessee at Alabama, CSS

Grayson's Lorenzo Washington (No. 97) plays defensive line and Norcross' Darius Hanks (No. 15) plays wide receiver for Alabama.

3:30 p.m. - Clemson at Miami, ABC

Parkview's Michael Palmer (No. 86) plays tight end and Brookwood's Dawson Zimmerman (No. 96) is a punter for Clemson.

3:30 p.m. - Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee, CSS

Meadowcreek's Mychal Patterson (No. 74) plays offensive line and Collins Hill's Bo Adebayo (No. 90) plays defensive line for Western Kentucky. Grayson's Denzell Guerra (No. 31) is a safety and Mill Creek's Jordan Johnson (No. 76) plays offensive line for Middle Tennessee.

4 p.m. - Air Force at Utah, Versus

Peachtree Ridge's Asher Clark (No. 17) are Buford's Cody Getz (No. 28) are running backs for Air Force.

7 p.m. - Louisiana-Monroe at Kentucky, Fox SportSouth

North's Ross Bogue (No. 86) plays tight end for Kentucky.

7 p.m. - Tulane at Southern Miss, CSS

Norcross' Brooks Cunningham (No. 91) plays defensive end and Peachtree Ridge's Phillip Davis (No. 13) plays cornerback for Tulane.

7:30 p.m. - Florida at Mississippi State, ESPN

Buford's Omar Hunter (No. 99) plays defensive line and Buford's T.J. Pridemore (No. 45) plays fullback for Florida.

7:30 p.m. - Auburn at LSU, ESPN2

GAC's T-Bob Hebert (No. 53) plays offensive line, Peachtree Ridge's Derrick Bryant (No. 36) plays cornerback and Peachtree Ridge's Kevin Minter (No. 46) plays linebacker.