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North Georgia Womens Soccer Knocks Off Wingate in Penalty Kicks

Videoboard at Catawba College displaying the North Georgia win graphic for the 2023 NCAA Division Two Women’s Soccer Tournament. Photo by Devin Kupka

The University of North Georgia took on familiar opponent Wingate University in the Women’s Soccer NCAA Division II Tournament. This matchup is the fourth all-time meeting between the two in tournament play. With UNG seeded third, and the host site at two-seeded Catawba.

UNG started the game with a lot of momentum. Junior forward Arielle Aronoff had three shots on goal within the first 15 minutes of the game. The Bulldogs would answer right back by scoring a goal from Yasmin Cowley in the 20th minute. The rest of the first half would remain goalless.

Wingate was up 1-0 over UNG at halftime, with both teams only shooting three shots in the first half.

Senior defender Bailey Vessell came up clutch for North Georgia in the second half, scoring the Nighthawk’s lone goal of the game, tying it up at one in the 59th minute. Neither team would score the rest of regulation forcing overtime for the first time in the six previous matches between the two teams.

“I was just saying praise Jesus, that I finally got a header down and into the goal, because I had a lot of opportunities and they all went high, I was very thankful to get it down and put it into the back of the net. It’s a big confidence boost because a lot of times I miss the goal… I was very excited and it changed the game.” – Bailey Vessell

In the two overtime periods, Wingate would get only four shots off in the two periods. North Georgia’s junior goalkeeper, came up with a few clutch saves for the Nighthawks to keep it tied.

With the game being tied at the end of two overtime periods, it headed to penalty kicks.

North Georgia would go 3-1 in penalty kicks and held Wingate 1-3, avenging their loss to Wingate in the second round of the tournament four years ago. Sophomore midfielder Adleigh Wheeler was the Nighthawk to score the game-winning penalty kick.

“It was a big occasion and I think it took us a little while to settle into the game, but once we had settled in, I thought the second half was a lot better from us, and we started to play the we can, and we started to keep possession of the ball and move it. Ultimately we had some success finding that first goal to tie the game. Going into overtime it’s a bit of heart, not just a bit of heart but a lot of heart and we fought through to give us a chance and keep going and get us to PK’s. An array of emotions when it comes to PK’s, it’s a game of chance at that point. We settled in and our goalkeeper had a tremendous PK,” said head coach Kayley Ralton.

Goalkeeper Sierra Fowler not only scored a goal for North Georgia in PK’s but also made a couple of crucial saves.

“I wish we could of pulled it out without penalties [kicks], but obviously we fought to the end and made it there, but just taking home the win either way is a confidence boost especially when you fight as hard through two overtimes and an entire round of penalties. It’s a bit stressful but you can’t really let the nerves get to you, because you are in that situation. Its not like you can get out of that point, you kinda have to put your mind into it, and do the best that you can” – Sierra Fowler

North Georgia will play the winner of UNC Pembroke and Catawba.

“Fortunately we have played both teams, so we have an idea of both [teams], and again it just speaks volumes to the strength of schedule that we played, that we’ve played two that are already here. We have seen what they can do, and we have an understanding already, so we will be looking to build onto that,” said Kayley Ralton.

The Nighthawks will play again this Saturday at 2 p.m.

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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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