Grizzlies display offense at first-ever scrimmage

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Mill Creek grad Zach Mruk ran to the sideline with a smile on his face and his arms outstretched after scoring a goal Saturday in Georgia Gwinnett College's men's soccer scrimmage against Oglethorpe. It was quite a change in emotion for the Georgia Gwinnett College freshman just hours after serving as a pallbearer for Tajay Hoppiness, a Mill Creek grad who drowned Aug. 9 in Florida.

"It felt good to just get out and run around more than anything," Mruk said. "Getting a goal really just got my spirits high. I was just glad the team played well more than anything. That was what made me happy, it was a team effort."

Coming from an outside defender position, being on the finish of a goal was a bit of a surprise for Mruk, who had a lot of friends at the game after they came to bid farewell to Hoppiness.

"I was just trying to play my role when I got up there," he said. "It was a really good feeling. It was a big relief to just score."

Just seven days into practice as a team, the Grizzlies showed off a great offense under head coach Steve DeCou against an Oglethorpe team celebrating 50 years of soccer this season.

David Burke, Juan Matute and Mruk netted goals for GGC in the 3-0 scrimmage win at the college's intramural soccer fields.

"I told the boys, 'If you would've told me seven days into training camp with a team that's never known each other before would beat Oglethorpe 3-0, I would've said you're crazy,'" DeCou said. "We've got about 18 college players who transferred in, so they've got experience. But it was an impressive performance."

Tom Butler showed some promise up top with both the physical skills to shield off defenders and a good touch to both dribble and serve the ball to his teammates. Butler and Burke connected on a couple of passes in the box before Burke finally put the first goal home 10 minutes into the game.

Johan Sanchez and Berkmar grad Martin Lugo showed promise as well in the attack. Sanchez was able to serve a number of balls into the box, and Lugo had a couple of headers saved by the Stormy Petrels' goalkeeper.

With just five minutes remaining before the game's second intermission, Matute put his goal in after some nifty footwork in the box.

DeCou said the team has a lot to work on, but he was impressed with the one- and two-touch soccer and by the vocal leadership in the back from goalkeeper Greg Hartley, a senior from Manchester, England.

"These guys do have a pretty decent ability level that they brought with them," DeCou said. "But that has been the point of emphasis -- one- and two-touch football, get people moving off the ball, play quick, trying to get teams to chase you and really wear them out."

The men will play another scrimmage Monday before next week's opening games for the men and women to officially kick off the Grizzlies' athletic program.