Grizzlies suffer 1-0 loss in NAIA tournament opener

No. 9 Georgia Gwinnett men’s soccer team was knocked out of the 2013 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championships Saturday night with a 1-0 opening round loss at No. 13 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Fla.) in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Junior Veit Couturier’s 61st minute penalty kick proved to be the difference as the Grizzlies fell in their first-ever national tournament contest, snapping an eight-game winning streak. The shutout was just the second all season for the Grizzlies, whose terrific year comes to an end at 15-5 overall.

Georgia Gwinnett produced 14 shots on the night, including seven on goal, but Nils Carlson’s seven saves kept GGC off the board. Ibrahima Sissoko’s second-half chance from inside the box glanced off the crossbar and despite outshooting the Eagles after halftime, the Grizzlies could not climb onto the board.

Rene Enang and Martin Lugo each had a pair of shots on goal to lead GGC, while Lewis Sharpe made a season-high six saves in goal to keep the Grizzlies within one.

Two of GGC’s five losses this season came at the hands of ERAU. The Eagles (14-3) are one of 16 winners on Saturday to advance to the NAIA championship final site in Montgomery, Ala.

In a scoreless opening period, each team earned four corner kicks and ERAU held a 10-5 shot advantage, but neither side earned many quality scoring chances and it went 0-0 into halftime.

The Grizzlies turned up the pressure to begin the second half and built more quality possessions, but still could not produce a score.

Sharpe made a quality kick save on Nicklas Perersson in the 59th minute to keep it scoreless, but just two minutes later the Eagles would capitalize for the game’s lone goal.

After ERAU played a quick pass ahead to a streaking Nicklas Petersson in the GGC box in the 61st minute, Grizzly defender Johan Sanchez was whistled for a tackle that awarded a penalty kick to the Eagles.

Couturier converted the opportunity by slotting it to the lower right corner.

The Grizzlies continued to fight, and Sharpe made a few additional saves to keep it a one-goal game and ignite some GGC attacks. In the 69th minute, David Burke worked a possession deep into the Eagle box, cutting it back off the end line to an open Sissoko eight yards out, but the one-timer deflected off the crossbar and away from the goal.