By Berry Aldridge, Staff Writer
After 110 grueling, hard-fought minutes against the No. 2 nationally ranked Nighthawks of the University of North Georgia, the Armstrong State soccer team battled to a 0-0 draw to improve their Peach Belt Conference record to 5-2-2 overall and 2-0-2 in conference play.
Despite coming away with a tie, the Pirates felt good about their ability to halt an explosive North Georgia offense, especially since their All-American senior defender, Taylor Russell, and fellow back-liner sophomore, McKenzie Anderson, were both out with leg injuries.
Without Russell and Anderson, it fell on the shoulders of juniors Allison Litchfield and Olivia DeJong to step up and hold down the center-back positions for Armstrong. While soccer defense does not often show up on the stat sheet, both delivered great performances.
DeJong said, “Even without McKenzie and Taylor, we were confident. We had no doubt we could keep a strong defensive line. We were confident throughout the whole game of our abilities to be able to keep the shutout.”
Litchfield added, “Despite the injuries and rain, we dealt with adversity very well throughout the game and the season. We all worked together and it takes that kind of effort and attitude to overcome these obstacles to move forward and succeed.”
Despite the lack of scoring, offenses were firing early and often for both teams. Shots on goal came in no small doses during this contest.
Armstrong lost in total shots 16-22, but actually had more shots on goal, thanks largely in part to junior forward Sarah Olin’s aggressive approach. Olin tallied a game-high seven shots, six of which were on goal.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, the Nighthawks matched their defense step for step and both teams’ keepers played extremely well. Senior Pirate keeper Morgan Luckie gathered five crucial saves while the Nighthawks’ keeper collected seven of her own.
Russell and Anderson were not the only Pirates to miss the game. Senior midfielder Candace Cosby also missed the game with a possible season-ending knee injury. Given these injuries and the short turnaround from their last game, Armstrong showed true heart to gut out the double overtime draw.
Head coach Eric Faulconer said, “It was a complete team effort against North Georgia. Obviously we would have preferred to win, but a draw against the No. 2 team in the country is a great result. We have been facing a lot of adversity with injuries, but this team is very resilient. We are in a good spot at the moment, but we know there are a lot of games yet to be played.”
The Pirates took the field Wednesday, Oct 7 to face off against Clayton State and will next host Young Harris Saturday, Oct 10 at 1 p.m.