September 24, 2013
Heading into their final match of September, the Georgia Perimeter College Jaguars find themselves undefeated and ranked 13th in the NJCAA national coaches’ poll, collecting five straight shutouts and outscoring opponents 37-1.
Coach Bruno Kalonji’s well-balanced squad dominated their conference opponents until Friday, Sept. 20, when the Jaguars managed a hard-earned 2-0 victory at fifth-ranked Darton State College, the reigning GCAA champion. The battlefield atmosphere came as no surprise as the rivals have gone at it tooth-and-nail for the past four seasons.
In 2009 Darton defeated GPC in the conference semifinals, but the Jaguars won the GCAA championship in 2010, beating the Cavaliers in the title match on penalty kicks. Darton won the title in 2011 and 2012, both times defeating runner-up GPC. Over the past three seasons, the rivals have generated four ties.
GPC finished third at the NJCAA national tournament in 2010, and coach Ken Weiland’s Cavaliers were the national runner-up in 2011. With both teams eyeing a return to this year’s nationals, Cavalier Field was charged with excitement Friday.
The Jaguars (6-0, 6-0 GCAA) shut down a high-powered offense and displayed their own multi-talented attack to hand Darton (8-1, 4-1) its first loss of the season.
“The girls played well as a unit,” Kalonji said. “They worked for each other and showed great team effort.”
After a defensive duel that lasted into the 43rd minute of the match, GPC’s Bolanle Salako scored with an assist by Caroline Haaland. Sara Marks sealed it late in the second half, assisted by Hanan Threats.
Goalkeeper Michelle Hurst saved seven shots on goal to secure the shutout. Hurst and the Jaguar defense—led by co-captains Haaland, Stephanie Gutierrez and All-American Alex Truitt, along with freshman Kyana Campbell—have allowed only 18 shots on goal and one goal in six games.
Georgia Perimeter moved into first place in the GCAA, while Darton slipped into third place, a half-game behind Middle Georgia State College (6-3, 5-1), which hosts GPC this Friday, Sept. 27.
The Jaguars and Cavaliers dominate GCAA statistics with 10 of the top 18 points leaders. Darton’s Lyana Perez leads with 43 points, and Bolanle is tied for third with 22—both are freshmen. Middle Georgia’s Micayla Crenshaw is second with 24 points, and South Georgia State’s Jetena Bodden also has 22.
The top five assists leaders are Jaguars and Cavaliers. Gutierrez, who alternates between defense and midfield, leads with 10. Three Cavs follow with seven assists—Perez, Brianna Lemerise and Chevelle Lopez—and GPC’s Courtney Dobeck has five.
Hurst and Darton goalkeeper Hong Tran lead the league in goals against average with 0.17 and 0.94, respectively, a tribute also to the defensive lines in front of them.
Darton visits Georgia Perimeter’s Clarkston field on Oct. 11 to complete their home-and-away series. The conference tournament will be held at Georgia Perimeter on Nov. 1 and 2.