Grizzlies advance to championship with 2-1 win

The GGC Grizzlies mens soccer team celebrates after Essie Aburime’s second-half goal Friday in Lawrenceville. (Photo: Tom Grason)

The GGC Grizzlies mens soccer team celebrates after Essie Aburime’s second-half goal Friday in Lawrenceville. (Photo: Tom Grason)

LAWRENCEVILLE — Senior Rene Enang and sophomore Essie Aburime each scored as the Georgia Gwinnett men’s soccer team outlasted Cal State San Marcos in the Grizzlies’ first-ever postseason appearance Friday afternoon with an electric 2-1 semifinal victory on the opening day of the Association of Independent Institutions championship tournament in Lawrenceville.

After a scoreless first half, the third-seeded Grizzlies (14-4) built a 2-0 advantage before holding off a late charge from the second-seeded Cougars (10-5-2).

Georgia Gwinnett advances to face NAIA No. 3 and tournament top seed Ashford University (Iowa) today at the Grizzly Soccer Complex at 4 p.m. The Saints defeated fourth-seeded Lindenwood-Belleville by a 6-1 margin in Friday’s other semifinal.

The Grizzlies built a 9-3 shot advantage in the first half against CSUSM and created several quality scoring opportunities, but the game remained scoreless into the half.

After the break, GGC pushed until finally opening the scoring in the 64th minute. German Rodriguez played a ball through to Enang, who boxed out his defender, turned on goal and fired it past Cougars goalkeeper Zach Sheppard for a 1-0 GGC lead.

The Grizzlies added to their advantage 15 minutes later, tallying the eventual game-winner as Enang connected with Aburime in space in the CSUSM box. The sophomore found the back of the net as GGC took a two-goal lead.

Aburime’s score proved vital when just over a minute later, the Cougars climbed onto the board by capitalizing on a free kick opportunity on the attacking end. Dustin Scibilia won a battle in traffic and headed it in to cut the GGC lead to 2-1 in the 80th minute.

The Grizzlies held tough over the final 10 minutes, turning aside several Cougar attacks and winning possession for much of the final time remaining.

Freshman Lewis Sharpe made three saves in goal for the Grizzlies, who have won seven consecutive games.

Cal State San Marcos 3, GGC women 1

The Georgia Gwinnett women’s soccer team suffered a 3-1 defeat at the hands of second-seeded Cal State San Marcos in the rain Friday evening in the final game on day one of the Association of Independent Institutions championship tournament in Lawrenceville.

Natalie Leone scored a first-half goal to tie the game for the Grizzlies, but Paulina Good’s go-ahead goal and two scores from Dani Porter were too much to overcome.

The Grizzlies (14-4-1) had allowed just 12 goals all season entering the night and withstood 12 corner kicks on the evening for the Cougars.

Cal State San Marcos (10-5-1) advances to today’s championship game against top-seeded Ashford, who took down Lindenwood-Belleville earlier Friday, 7-1.

“It was a tough one tonight,” Grizzlies head coach Domenic Martelli said. “But I was very proud, and very happy with the way we played for most of the night, especially in the first 45 minutes.

“I want to thank these seniors for everything they did to get us here to this game tonight and the remarkable season we’ve had. And now, tomorrow we come out and support the men’s team. We want to represent Georgia Gwinnett.”

Porter gave the Cougars an early 1-0 lead in the nightcap, breaking free on net in the seventh minute and scoring just the seventh goal all season on GGC goalkeeper Mo Gutierrez.

The Grizzlies responded with a strong offensive attack, and Leone eventually knotted the game on a feed from Mackenzie Bailey in the 31st minute.

The teams went into halftime tied, 1-1, with GGC taking a 5-4 shot advantage into the break.

In the second half, the end-to-end action opened up, and CSUSM took advantage of a couple of unsettled situations.

Good received a ball from Ashley Graves near the edge of the box and fired one through traffic and into the back of the net to break the tie.

The Grizzlies pushed for the tying score and created several opportunities, but the Cougars would add to their lead.

Porter’s second goal, this time on a pass from Jacqueline Lara in the 76th minute, added an insurance score for CSUSM.

The Cougars finished with a 12-2 advantage in corner kicks and a 12-8 lead in shots.

“In the long run, we had our chances in the second half, but they are a disciplined team and they do what they do well,” Martelli added. “We showed lots of flashes but we didn’t convert.”