Staff Photo: John Bohn Georgia Gwinnett College's Natalie Leone (13) defends Shorter University's Brandi Greenwald during the first half of a women's soccer game Saturday. This game is the finale of GGC's inaugural varsity women's soccer regular season.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- A couple of mental lapses late in the first half ended Georgia Gwinnett College's inaugural season with a 2-1 defeat against Shorter University on Saturday.
Early on, it looked like the Grizzlies (10-7-1) might be in good shape against Shorter, which entered the game with only four wins. Grayson grad Mary Vernetti passed a ball off to Mackenzie Bailey, and Bailey fired a shot from the top of the box that beat goalkeeper Katie Stachula for a 1-0 lead.
"It felt really good the first five minutes," Vernetti said. "We came out, and it looked like we really wanted to win. We were playing amazing, playing all over them. I don't know what happened from there. I guess we came out thinking since we got a goal in like the first 30 seconds, we thought we could have it the whole time and maybe gave up a little too soon."
Shorter (5-12-1) nearly drew level in the 13th minute off a corner kick. Aline Bez Tamiosso sent the corner in toward Cintia Lamas, whose first shot was blocked. She then recovered the rebound and struck a nice shot off the crossbar, ending the Hawks' threat.
After Kiley Barrett was shown a yellow card in the 33rd minute, Shorter evened the score off a set piece. Helena Farinha lined up for the free kick from about 35 yards out and quickly put a strike on goal that beat the defense and goalkeeper Mo Gutierrez to tie the score at 1-1.
Just five minutes later, Brandi Greenwald forced her way past a pair of defenders on the right side and struck a shot across the frame, off the left post and into the net for a goal that put Shorter up 2-1 late in the first half.
Neither team was able to muster much offense in the second half. The Hawks outshot the Grizzlies 18-9 in the game and didn't let GGC get a decent scoring chance in the second half. Kayla Bell nearly put the Hawks up 3-1 off a free kick with screwball motion. As the kick sailed away from Gutierrez, Bell redirected a header just over the crossbar.
Grizzlies coach Domenic Martelli was disappointed with the effort put forth after the early score.
"We came out and had a beautiful goal and played well at times," Martelli said. "But to have so many things go in a direction where we're not taking control over -- we had the opportunity to do things we do well, and we didn't. And that, against a team that can battle that had tough games the entire year, we're not going to get the easy ones coming forward. We're going to have to work for it, and we didn't work enough to take a team like this out of the game."
The men's game was much different, starting with the fact that Hiwassee only had seven players. GGC wanted to give its three seniors -- Greg Hartley, Tom Butler and Alejandro Duque -- a final sendoff, so the game started with the Grizzlies fielding eight and the Tigers fielding seven.
The sendoff was a memorable one, a 19-0 victory to cap a 14-win inaugural season for the men.
In the seventh minute, Butler put the first goal on the board for the Grizzlies (14-2-2) off a pass from Hartley, who played at forward in his final collegiate game and scored seven times with three assists.
"I think for a first-year program, we kind of exceeded expectations," Hartley said. "I'm sure when you speak to people about trying to make history at a first-year program, they think you're going to be like a (winning) 50 percent team. You're going to win and lose.
"I think with the team we had, we were consistent. We made sure we weren't going to be that normal first-year program that was going to come in here and do the right job and make a statement to everybody."
Hartley put goal No. 2 in three minutes later off an assist from Butler, who finished his season with 28 goals and nine assists after Saturday's eight goals and three assists.
"It's kind of mixed emotions I guess," Butler said. "I'm honored to be a part of the team here. I know in a few years this coach is going to build a really good program, so to be a part of that is great. But it's also sad knowing that I can't play next year. I'd love to come back next year when they're playing for national championships and things like that, because that's where this team will be in a few years, no doubt."
Duque, who played in high school at Collins Hill, assisted on Butler's second score and found the net himself in the 16th minute. Duque added three more assists and finished the year with eight goals and seven assists.
"(The lopsided game) was obviously not the way I planned to end my senior year, my collegiate career," Duque said. "We tried to make the best out of it. We came out, and I enjoyed it with my teammates, my guys, and tried to have some fun even though the opponent wasn't the best. We tried to make a game out of it."
Coach Steve DeCou said the Grizzlies' first season on the pitch exceeded his expectations.
"A couple of friends of mine have started programs," DeCou said. "I said, 'Give me some advice.' They said, 'Expect to get beat lots of times. Expect it to be rough years.' That was kind of our expectation."
But the Grizzlies put up a great fight in every game, never allowing more than two goals to any opponent.
"But with the guys we had coming in, we knew we were going to be good," DeCou said. "But to say we were going to go 14-2-2, no one would've predicted that."
Having three seniors provide leadership in a year without the chance of competing for a national title was a great asset, according to DeCou.
"They helped lay a perfect foundation. Hartley set the bar very high for what our future goalkeepers will be. Butler has probably set an impossible goals (mark) for a season that probably won't get broken for a long time. And Duque did a great job in the midfield for us.
"But what those three brought was a professionalism every day to training, the experience, the calmness. When you've got three years of experience, young guys look to them. 'What do they do when the going gets tough?' So that is only going to benefit us down the road."