Members of the Georgia Gwinnett College soccer team celebrate with the trophy after beating the Ashford Saints 3-0 on Saturday to win the American of Independent Institutions championship.
LAWRENCEVILLE — With their first postseason berth in school history, the Georgia Gwinnett College men’s soccer team delivered the school their first American of Independent Institutions soccer championship, as they defeated the Ashford Saints 3-0 Saturday night at the Grizzly Soccer Complex.
“We’re the first,” said Head Coach Steve DeCou. “No one can take that away from us, but more importantly it means we will be playing next week.”
The Grizzlies (15-5) will advance to national tournament next weekend, as they found the net on three different occasions to get by the Saints (13-4-1) and snap their six-game winning streak. For the Grizzlies, it was their eighth straight victory, a program-best, as well as their eighth shutout of the season.
The game-winner came in the 52nd minute of the contest, as Martin Lugo found Ibrahimi Sissoko inside the box and the GGC midfielder found the back of the net, making it 1-0 Grizzlies. Sissoko delivered his fourth game-winner of the season
“It was a simple give and go,” Sissoko said. “I saw Martin (Lugo) open in space, pass it off and then waited to put it in.”
The goal may have come on a great execution, but Saints held off the Grizzlies attack in the first half. Despite scoring three goals in the second half, scores were hard to come by in the first period. GGC took eight shots on goal, but were held scoreless. GGC’s best scoring chance came in the 19th minute, as Callum Mordey drove a ball from the top of the box, but Ashford keeper Patrick Kinsella made a diving stop, keeping the score 0-0.
“We had the ball most of the time,” Sissoko said. “We knew we had to keep going and control the ball.”
The Grizzlies control of the ball prevented the Saints potent offensive attack from sustaining any scoring chances. The Saints, who carry five double-digit scorers on their rosters, mustered two shots during the first half. Their lone scoring threat came on a free kick from Fernando Machado in the final minute of the first half, but GGC goalkeeper Lewis Sharpe corralled the shot with ease.
“They’re an offense that averages three goals a game,” said DeCou. “I don’t think it was our defense that was giving them fits. It was our offense. We keopt the ball about 75% of the time, so they were chasing shadows all first half.”
The shadows created a larger edge. GGC added two more goals to put the game out of reach within a five-minute span. The first came as Mordey found a free ball in front of the net and pushed it through, extending the lead to 2-0, while senior forward David Burke took a rebound and found the back of the net to make it 3-0.
With a large lead at hand, the GGC squad continued to halt any scoring attacks from the Saints. Ashford would finish the match with nine shots, three on goal as they suffered their second straight A.I.I Championship Game defeat. Ashford, who made it to the A.I.I. Championship in 2012, fell to the same fate, being shutout 3-0 for the second straight season.
“That program over there has made it to the tournament three straight years,” said DeCou. “We’re coming together as a team. We’re 18 months old, we’re rookies.”
On this day, the rookies prevailed over the season veterans and will advance to the National tournament that starts next week.