AIKEN, SC – The North Georgia Saints men's soccer team got the benefit of an own goal in the 88th minute to get by pesky USC Aiken, 2-1, in their first conference game of the 2011 season Saturday night.
North Georgia caught the fortunate bounce off the head of an Aiken defender with two minutes left in regulation when the Saints were given a corner kick. The ball was sent in then found the back of the net, getting by Aiken keeper Robert Bolender.
The Saints were able to get on the board first when Jesy Phelps made a nice move on the top right of the box. Phelps made a quick crossover move, and then drilled the shot with his left foot leaving Bolender to guess which way Phelps would go. He went lower left corner and Bolender didn't have the reach to make the save. The goal, assisted by Max Angel, came in the 31st minute and the Saints would head into the half with a 1-0 lead.
The Saints would keep their one goal advantage until the 70th minute, when USC Aiken scored the equalizer thanks to a header by Brett Van Pelt that beat the Saints nearside.
The Saints wouldn't hang their heads though, creating more opportunities to try and get the lead back. Aiken would help committing 13 fouls in the second half, with plenty of them committed from about 30 yards out. North Georgia had plenty of free kicks to send into the box, but all failed to connect with a blue jersey. The break would come when the Saints were rewarded their only corner in the second half on the own goal.
Rade Tanaskovic had plenty of quality saves and gave the Saints the chance to win as usual. Tanaskovic earned his second victory on the season finishing with five total saves in the game.
Zachry Samples, Chris Bishop and Chris Griffith played solid in the backfield for North Georgia not giving the host Pacers many scoring opportunities. The strong performance by the defenders allowed the Saints to earn their second victory on the season and go to 1-0 in the Peach Belt.
It was a game the Saints needed to win in order to get off to the right start in conference play and they got just that. They will now have to wait until next Saturday to play their second PBC game when they host UNC-Pembroke at the North Georgia Soccer Complex.
North Georgia returns to the pitch this upcoming Wednesday, when the Saints will travel to Lenoir-Rhyne in a non-conference matchup. The game is set to kickoff at 5:00 PM in Hickory, North Carolina.