After a slow start to the 2017 campaign for the UNG women’s soccer team, the Nighthawks are rolling and the winners of four straight matches, following their 5-0 defeat of Francis Marion University on Saturday, Sept. 23.
It was a completely different feel for the Nighthawks from the last time they took the field in Dahlonega, 13 days earlier when they tied Florida Tech 0-0. But head coach Chris Adams stressed that it is still the same team.
“It’s just a little bit more experience,” Adams said. “When you have 14 new players it takes a little while to get a little continuity and get things going. We’ve gone back and we’ve worked. We changed our shape a little bit and those things have led to us being much more efficient not only creating the chances, but making the most of them.”
Experience wasn’t the only quality the team demonstrated on Saturday, however. From their first goal just three minutes in, the Nighthawks exuded a new confidence and swagger, much of which can be credited to the success they experienced in the previous three-game stretch away from home.
UNG was 3-0 over that stretch, winning the first two on game-ending overtime goals before upsetting the No. 2 ranked Columbus State squad 3-2. As the Nighthawks returned home, one could say confidence was high heading into the eventual 5-0 victory.
“It does give you confidence to know that when it’s crunch time, you can win,” top-scorer Renee VanHorn said. “Now we’re doing it without having to go to overtime. We have that confidence.”
UNG applied pressure from the opening whistle, forcing a handball in the box to earn a penalty kick just three minutes in, which VanHorn easily converted to give the Nighthawks an early 1-0 lead. Just over 10 minutes later, VanHorn doubled her money, scoring off a cross from sophomore forward Payton Bisso to make it 2-0 Nighthawks.
The Nighthawks flew further into the lead, scoring two more goals in the first half, as Taylor Malasek and Daizah Patterson each sent their shots into the back of the net.
Any hopes of a second-half rally were squashed almost immediately when a cross sent into the box by Brynn Finneran was deflected right to Bisso who scored the game’s fifth and final goal just over a minute into the second half. The defense for the Nighthawks then took over, holding the clean sheet and not allowing a single shot over the 90 minute match.
The dominant result just adds to the reputation UNG women’s soccer has acquired through the years.
“We are North Georgia,” VanHorn said. “We have a high standard.”