Georgia Gwinnett’s women’s soccer season has been through a thrill of highs and lows in their first month under new head coach, Chris Kouns. The lady Grizzlies received votes in the first NAIA Top 25 Women’s Soccer Poll, but fell just shy of a national ranking when the poll was first released in August. The Grizzly attack oriented system has paved the way for many goals, six by star Grizzly Bristol Countess through five games. Countess, a spark-plug sophomore from Alabama, has been able to find the back of the net in four straight contests already this season. A start hot was simmered by two defeats in their last three matches, but Georgia Gwinnett aims to bounce back strongly against a nationally elite schedule moving forward. The Grizzlies have a record of 3-2 entering the crucial final months of the season.
The Lady Grizzlies roared to a 6-0 home win against University of South Carolina-Beaufort on opening day Aug. 28. In Coach Kouns’ first match, he was pleased with the winning performance.
“One of the hallmarks of this program will be that we’re going to go forward and try to put teams under pressure. I thought we were able to do that at times tonight and I was very pleased with our finishing,” he said.
Georgia Gwinnett faced their first adversity of the season in game two during a second half goal deficit to SCAD-Savannah on Aug. 30. Georgia Gwinnett retaliated with two late goals to steal a home win over a strong SCAD-Savannah squad. A 2-0 record at the forefront, Georgia Gwinnett headed to South Florida for a trip against national powers in early September.
The Grizzlies arrived in Miami Gardens, Fla. on Friday, Sept. 4 to bad weather in the area. After over an hour of delay, the match against St. Thomas University was postponed until the following day. With a shift in the schedule, Georgia Gwinnett suffered its first defeat in the season, losing 3-2. The hosting Bobcats jumped out to a three goal lead in the first half against a sleepy Georgia Gwinnett squad that was just waking up. The Grizzlies answered with two countess goals in the second half before finally falling one goal short in the defeat.
“I thought we just came out flat in the first half,” Kouns explained. “We gave up three goals and just dug ourselves too deep a hole.”
The Sept. 4 setback was the first loss for Georgia Gwinnett on the season. The Grizzlies brought a 2-1 record into a Sunday showdown with one of the nation’s premier programs.
On Sept. 6, Georgia Gwinnett left Miami for West Palm Beach, Fla. to take on the #3 team in the nation, Keiser University. The highly anticipated contest was filled with highs and lows, much like the Georgia Gwinnett season thus far. A strong first half was ultimately wiped away as host Keiser University scored three second half goals to deliver the Grizzlies a second straight loss. Leading scorer Bristol Countess got the Grizzlies on the board in a positive first half, taking the lead 1-0 into the break before falling short 3-1 on the road.
“We had a really terrific opportunity to take on a top notch team like Keiser, and I’m proud of how we stepped up and took it head on,” Kouns said. “We didn’t get the result that I would’ve liked, but everyone had to be warriors today. And the team put together a really concerted effort.”
The Grizzlies returned home from Florida with a .500 record of 2-2. The latest match of the season was a huge momentum lifter for the Grizzlies, defending their home turf with a strong 5-0 win over Milligan College from Tennessee.
“We started off doing absolutely what we talked about doing before the match,” Kouns said. “We need to do better about maintaining that kind of pressure because that’s what we will need to do to play well against some of the other teams on the rest of our schedule.”
Bristol Countess scored in her fourth consecutive game, marking only the second time that feat has been done in Georgia Gwinnett history.
“I set personal goal for myself before we started the year of trying to get a goal or an assist in every game,” Countess said. “So far, I’ve been able to do that and a lot of credit for that goes to the team. I can’t really do it without them and they’ve played a huge role in helping me reach that goal through the first five matches.”
Georgia Gwinnett has a 3-2 record as of Sept. 16, heading into the most critical matches of their season. Georgia Gwinnett has four matches against top ten opponents in the next two months. With a transitioning system and talented squad, Georgia Gwinnett has the mindset to upset some title hopefuls this season.
By Cody Butler