On a cloudy Sunday afternoon mixed with light rainfall, the Georgia Southern women’s soccer team prepared to go into battle with in-state rival Georgia State University in a match-up that would shift the momentum for both teams in the Sun Belt.
With two players on Georgia State’s roster being former Eagles, this game was personal for Georgia Southern, as they wanted to secure a victory and extend their winning streak after coming off a 3-1 victory against Arkansas State.
The opening minutes were an opportunity for the Eagles to take an early advantage. Nora El-Shami scored in the third minute of play giving El-Shami her seventh goal of the season and pushed Georgia Southern to a 1-0 lead.
After back and forth play going into the 13th minute of play, Georgia State retaliated with a goal by Lauren Harriman, and tied the game 1-1.
The Eagles then began to operate and maneuver the ball into scoring position. With the assist from Renee Nance in the 16th minute, El-Shami scored her second goal of the game to give the Eagles a 2-1
Later in the first half, Georgia State player Caitlin Ray scored to make the game 2-2 headed into halftime.
Both teams started the second half on an aggressive note. Georgia State took plenty of shots early on hoping to connect, but goalkeeper Emily Egan kept them at bay with three saves in the second half.
In the 78th minute of play, Jennifer Wittick scored her 10th goal of the season as she headed a corner kick from El-Shami and gave the Eagles a 3-2 lead.
With less than five minutes left in play, Georgia Southern looked like they were going to win the game, but after a mix of confusion down low in the Eagles goalpost, Caitlin Ray scored to make the game 3-3 and seemingly headed to overtime.
Seconds after the goal, the Eagles charged down field looking to find a way to win the game in the remaining minutes. Wittick was about to score for Georgia Southern, but was tripped up by a defending member of Georgia State, and the referee called a foul, giving the Eagles a penalty kick.
Capitalizing off Georgia State’s foul, El-Shami scored off the penalty kick, giving the Eagles a 4-3 lead and El-Shami’s ninth goal of the year and second hat trick of the season.
“You feel like you lost the game, even though it’s level,” head coach Brian Dunleavy said.”I am so proud of our team’s response to that goal, to get the ball forward and into the box. That’s what a really good team does.”
THe Eagles victory over Georgia State was their first one agaisnt the rival since 2001. El-Shami finished the game with three goals and an assist, and said that this game was pivotal moving forward in the Sun Belt.
“This game gave everyone a boost in confidence. Everyone’s ready to go into the next two games and hopefully dominate in those as well,” she said.
Georgia Southern is now 6-6-2 (3-1-1 in Sun Belt) and will look forward to taking on the top two teams in the Sun Belt this weekend. They’ll face Troy this Friday at 7 p.m. and the defending conference champions South Alabama on Sunday at 1 p.m. These will be the final two home games of the season.