LAWRENCEVILLE -- Within most athletics programs that are in their first year of competition, moral victories are usually acceptable.
But for the Georgia Gwinnett College men's soccer team, there are higher goals and aspirations in this inaugural 2012 season.
That was evident on Saturday afternoon at Grizzly Soccer Field as GGC hosted Auburn University at Montgomery, NAIA's top-ranked team in the modified RPI (rating percentage index) and third-ranked in the coaches' poll.
Battling to a scoreless draw well into the second half, AUM finally got a goal from senior forward Angel Gonzalez with 23:53 remaining in the game and the Warhawks made it stand up in a 1-0 over GGC in the first men's game on the new synthetic turf soccer field.
AUM improves to 9-2-1 overall while GGC, which lost for the first time at home this season, drops to 7-2-1.
"We should have gotten a result today," said GGC men's soccer head coach Steve DeCou. "We missed a lot of chances and went toe-to-toe with a very good team. We gave it as good as we took it. I told the boys that if that's a top five team in the country we just played, we're not far off."
After a tightly contested first half in which GGC had five shots and AUM four, the battle continued in the second half with both teams getting scoring opportunities.
AUM finally broke through as Gonzalez scored on a crossing pass from Axel Vignisson to give the Warhawks the one-goal lead.
But GGC didn't go away and twice put great shots on goal that AUM goal keeper Vignir Johannesson turned away each time.
First it was senior Tom Butler's shot that stopped by Johannesson with 10:38 remaining.
Then a header by junior Rene Enang was on target, but Johannesson secured the save with only 6:05 left.
GGC outshot AUM 11-9 for the game and Grizzlies' senior goal keeper Greg Hartley, who had a 6-0-1 record with three shutouts coming into the contest, was solid in goal despite the loss.
That effort didn't go overlooked by AUM head coach Wulf-Dieter Koch, who sees GGC already making great strides in building a solid program.
"We were not surprised today and knew (GGC) was going to be strong," said Koch. "We had seen the results and their record. They beat SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design) and I know Steve (DeCou) on a personal basis. He is a great coach and recruiter, so we knew it would be tough.
"I give them credit they are not your average first-year program. They have a group of veterans that came from other schools, so the experience is already there."
GGC will be back in action next Friday when Crown College comes in for a 5 p.m. match and DeCou thinks the tight loss to AUM will help for the rest of the season.
"We will learn and gain experience from today," said DeCou. "We may be a first-year program, but we have some talent on this team and we can correct some of the mistakes we made today. We got something good out of today's game even though we didn't get the win."