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GGC men crack rankings before OT stunner

The Georgia Gwinnett men’s soccer team began Tuesday by becoming the first team in school history to crack the NAIA National Top 25, earning the 24th spot in the men’s soccer coaches’ poll released Tuesday.

The Grizzlies earned 111 total points in the rankings, one week after receiving votes for the first time ever.

Tuesday evening ended on a sour note, however, as the Grizzlies outshot Reinhardt University 22-5, including 11 shots on goal, but fell by a 2-1 score in overtime in Lawrenceville.

Martin Lugo, a Berkmar grad, capitalized on an 86th minute penalty kick to tie the game for the attacking Grizzlies, but Matt Armis’ 10 saves in goal proved to be the difference for Reinhardt.

Just under three minutes into the first overtime period, the Eagles’ Jansen Berry took a quick ball off of a save by GGC’s Lewis Sharpe and slotted it into the net for the game-winner.

Georgia Gwinnett fell to 5-3 as it began a four-game homestand.

“Reinhardt set up very defensively tonight and they accomplished their goal,” Grizzlies head coach Steve DeCou said. “It came down to two looks and they converted with two goals. We just wasted too many chances tonight.”

“We have to use this as motivation to get back to where we need to be. We will see this type of game again so we have to get better and learn from this.”

The Grizzlies built a 7-0 shot advantage in the first half, including a strike by Essie Aburime that was cleared off of the goal line by a defender, but GGC couldn’t convert in a scoreless first half.

Just under five minutes into the second half, the Eagles played a long pass ahead that Shaquille Saunchez found in space, pushing past Sharpe for the game’s first score.

The Grizzlies ratcheted up the pressure looking for the tying score, producing chance after chance in the Reinhardt end. GGC was unable to get through the Eagle defense until Aburime was pulled down in the box on a loose ball, drawing a GGC penalty kick with just over four minutes remaining.

Lugo then placed a perfect strike in the upper left corner past a diving Armis to tie the game, giving the sophomore his team-leading fourth goal of the season.

Aburime led all players with four shots on the night while Lewis Sharpe made a pair of saves in net for GGC.

The Grizzlies turn around to face another Appalachian Athletic Conference opponent in Union College (Ky.) Saturday afternoon in Lawrenceville. Kickoff between the Grizzlies and Bulldogs is slated for 1 p.m.