On a drizzly afternoon last weekend, the Georgia College women’s soccer team beat visiting USC Aiken 3-1.
The lady Bobcats, boasting one of the fittest teams in its conference, saw last Saturday’s match as a chance to avenge a loss to the Pacers a year ago.
With the familiarity and advantage playing on home turf brings, the Bobcats notched a win in their first Peach Belt Conference game.
“Last year we lost to [USC Aiken],” junior forward Abby Dalton said. “It’s one of those games that when you think about games you should have won, you wish you could have had those chances back. Aiken was definitely one for me that I would think of, and they’re so physical and it’s so frustrating, but it makes us play better so it was a good game.”
Before the game, head coach Hope Clark told her women to focus on the controllable elements of the game.
“[Clark] really doesn’t focus a lot on our opponent. She reminded us that they’re physical and they’re going to come out, and they want to win just as badly as we do,” Dalton said. “But we really focus on things that we can control. We can’t control the refs, we can’t control their play, but we can control if we give up the ball or how hard we try to get it back, or how hard we make our sprints.”
Dalton assisted the first goal made by midfielder Ally Barys, which made the Bobcats 1-0 within the first ten minutes of the first half. About fifteen minutes later, Dalton skirted a defending opponent, took a shot and scored, giving the Bobcats a 2-0 lead in the first half. Dalton celebrated with high-fives on the field from her teammates.
“What gets me pumped up is definitely my teammates around me,” Dalton said. “Right before the game, everyone’s jumping and screaming and really excited, and that gets me really excited to play. And I, personally, am more excited to play at home, just because our friends are there; our families there.”
According to Clark, the juniors on the Bobcats took it upon themselves over the summer to bond with the bulk of freshmen coming in this year, before the team even began training together. Clark said this early bonding created good chemistry among the teammates, which makes the team stronger as a whole.
Dalton said another one of the keys to being a good team is competitive practices. Because there are so many teammates, players have to fight for their spots, which results in a strong group of players on the field who are backed by a strong group of players on the bench. Dalton said there is depth of skill even on the sidelines.
The team is also extremely fit.
“Definitely one of our strengths, which isn’t fun at the time, is our fitness,” Dalton said. “We can outrun teams like crazy, and we’ll keep outrunning them. It’s not just the first half, it’s the whole game that we can keep pushing hard in high pressure.”
The fitness and intensity paid off for a win.
“Mentally, I think [the win is] a good confidence booster,” Dalton said. “And you know, it gives us good momentum going forward for the rest of the conference games we have coming up. So definitely mentally we’re thinking, ‘Ok we have one conference win, why not continue another one?’”
Close to 10 minutes before the game ended, junior forward Ashley Veilleux scored the third goal of the game, ensuring the Pacers’ defeat.
“It was like we sealed the deal,” Veilluex said of her goal. “I mean, obviously you’re not coming back. They ended up getting one [goal], but in 10 minutes? Really, it’s probably not gonna happen. It was just a cherry on top kind of thing.”
While Aiken was rough on the field, the Bobcats tried to stay away from penalty cards.
“I would say [Aiken is] a very direct team, whereas we like to play more possession style of soccer,” Clark said. “It was just a very more physical match than a soccer match at times, and so that can really throw players off both mentally, as well as how do we work on that first touch under pressure, that high pressure they were giving us and things like that.”
But Aiken is last week’s game. The biggest opponent is Lander.
“Why? Because it’s Wednesday,” Clark said with a grin. “We don’t look, I don’t look, any further ahead than the first game. We never talk about any other game except for what’s right there. And we’re over Aiken. We’re on to Lander.”
After Lander the Bobcats are on to North Georgia Saturday, Sept. 28 at 3 p.m. at the Bobcat Field.