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North Georgia Beats Columbus State in Thriller, Winning ’23 PBC Regular Season Championship

UNG hold’s No. 1 seed going into Peach Belt Conference Tournament
North Georgia Women’s Soccer Team posing for a picture, after winning the 2023 Peach Belt Conference Regular Season Championship. Photo by Sydney Bolyard

For Women’s Soccer in the Peach Belt Conference, there are 45 in conference games. The University of North Georgia versus Columbus State University was game 45. The regular season championship and home field advantage were on the line in this matchup.

The start of the last regular season game for both teams was evenly contested. Both the Nighthawks and the Cougars had equal opportunities.

Columbus State was the first to score, finding the back of the net in the 27th minute, with Sarah Hungerford scoring her seventh goal of the season to take a 1-0 lead over North Georgia.

57 seconds later Katey DerKay tied the game at 1-1, with an assist from Alex Clark and Arielle Aronoff.

Senior Forward Katie DerKay said, “Honestly we talked about, if we go down we don’t get scared. We settled in and we bring it back to them. I think it [goal] really put the momentum back on us.”

The next 60 minutes went dead even. North Georgia had multiple opportunities to score in the final 10 minutes. The Nighthawks had five corner kicks in the last 10 minutes, but with 1:04 left to go in the game, Columbus State’s Juanita Escobar committed a foul. This gave North Georgia a penalty kick.

Maysoon El-Shami was the Nighthawk to kick it into the back of the net, giving North Georgia their first lead of the match, and the game winning goal.

“I couldn’t think at all, I just blacked out and I saw my teammates celebrating. We knew there was a minute left in the game, we had to stay focused because they could score at anytime, and we did that job,” said Senior Midfielder Maysoon El-Shami on her reaction to scoring the game winning goal.

El-Shami is not shy of game winning goals this season, with the game winner against CSU marking her tied with teammate Katey DerKay, with three game winning goals in 2023.

North Georgia Soccer Players gathering around teammate Maysoon El-Shami, after scoring the game winning goal. Photo by Sydney Bolyard

“It was unreal [El-Shami scoring game winning goal] honestly I played her for five years, and that is the best moment by far, it was just unreal,” said DerKay describing the late game heroics by Maysoon El-Shami.

With the Nighthawks winning 2-1, they clinched the top seed for the Peach Belt Conference Tournament, and won the PBC regular season championship.

“I felt like it was our time to leave a legacy here, we have been working hard all year, and we wanted the momentum to keep going our way, and we felt like we had them on our heels. We wanted to use that to our advantage and just keep going. The crowd and the bench and everybody here today had a part in getting us through the finish line,” said Kayley Ralton.

The UNG Women’s Soccer team has been in the Peach Belt since 2007. The Nighthawks had never taken the number one seed, or regular season championship in their program history, until this weekend.

This was North Georgia’s sixth win all time against Columbus State, snapping a five game losing streak spanning 955 days against the Cougars.

“I talked to the girls before the game and talked about how it was a business game and all year we have been preparing for this by playing one of the hardest schedules in the country, and I really felt like that paid off. We were ready for a really tough opponent… I felt like we prepared. We went on the road in the beginning of the season to be prepared for theses specific moments, and I felt like it worked today,” said Kayley Ralton.

North Georgia will play at home next Monday, Nov. 6, against Georgia Southwestern University.

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About the Contributor
Devin Kupka, Staff Writer
Hi I'm Devin Kupka. I'm a communications/multi-media/journalism major. Junior. Gainesville. My favorite part about journalism is all the different events one covers.
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