Statesboro, Ga. – Three was the magic number for the Georgia State women’s soccer team Friday as their 3-0 victory over intrastate rival, Georgia Southern, took them to an undefeated 3-0 record on the season.
“All three victories this season have come against teams that recruit heavily in the state of Georgia and Atlanta,” said head coach Domenic Martelli. “I think our team’s talent and ability to defeat these teams speaks well of this program’s ability to recruit the best talent in and around Atlanta.”
Junior Erinique Owens and senior Stephanie Cuccia each registered their first goal of the season, while freshman Jewel Evans took her season goal total to two. Senior goalkeeper Heidi Blankenship earned the shutout and her first win of the season.
Georgia State began the first half with scoring on the mind. Sophomore midfielder Jocelyn Baker took an early shot less than two minutes into play but was just wide of the goal. The game then reached a stalemate with a 10 minute lapse in action on both sides. Evans picked up the pace with a shot towards Georgia Southern’s goal in the 11th minute but it went wide as well.
At the 12:46 minute mark, the Panthers were able to capitalize on a scoring opportunity when junior Owens notched her first score of the season with an assist from Baker, who has contributed to at least one goal in each of Georgia State’s matches thus far this season.
The Eagles turned up the offense after Owens’ goal in the final minutes of the first half trying to even the score. Georgia Southern’s best opportunity to get on the board in the first half came with a header by midfielder McKenna Storey towards Georgia State’s goal; however, the ball was unable to get past the hands of Blankenship and the first half ended with Georgia State ahead 1-0.
“I think everyone played really well today and helped contribute to the win,” said Martelli. “We are still undefeated with a record of 3-0 and that is always nice heading into the rest of the season. Their level of playing ability today really showed that with the limited amount of players we have, they are all physically fit and playing strong. We are still trying to battle a lot of injuries. We were able to play everyone that was healthy but a lot of the girls didn’t play as much because they are still not at the best health-wise. Moving forward, we still have a long year.”
The Panthers got off to a slow start in the second half. Over 25 minutes ticked from the clock before Georgia State registered its first shot from sophomore forward Sarah Bennett but was denied with a save from Georgia Southern goalkeeper Missy Meyer.
Shortly after Bennett’s shot on goal, freshman defender Alyssia Feronti connected with Evans at the 78:46 minute mark to result in a shot on goal that found its way to the back of the net and increased Georgia State’s lead to two.
The Panthers’ third goal would come after Georgia Southern’s eighth foul, resulting in a free kick for Georgia State. With less than eight minutes left in the game, Cuccia powered a shot from 25 yards out and notched the third and final goal of the game.
The win moves Georgia State to an undefeated 3-0 on the season. The Panthers will return home to Panthersville on Sunday to test their talent against No. 25 Georgia at 2 p.m.
“We came down to Statesboro (Ga.) and got the win, but now we have to go back and focus for a day and a half to get ready for the University of Georgia, the 25th-ranked team in the country,” said Martelli. “Going into Sunday’s game, we have nothing to lose now. We are going to work some things out, get a lot out of the game and just defend really well. Our expectation is to give a good game just like we always do every year against Georgia.”