Athens, GA - The Georgia soccer team (10-5-4, 5-3-3) is headed to its sixth consecutive and 13th overall SEC Championships and will embark on its fifth straight weekend on the road when it travels to Orange Beach, Ala., on Tuesday. The fourth-seeded Bulldogs will square off against the No. 5 seed and SEC West champion Auburn in quarterfinal action on Wed., Nov. 3, looking to avenge a loss to the Tigers just nine days earlier in Athens.
Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. ET at the Orange Beach Sportsplex in Orange Beach, the neutral-site home of the SEC Championships since 2003. The Bulldogs are in search of their first tournament title, while the SEC champion secures an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.
The single elimination tournament features four games Wednesday, an off day Thursday, two games Friday, an off day Saturday, and the final on Sunday. A win Wednesday would send Georgia into the semifinals to take on the winner of the #1 vs. #8 game between Florida and Vanderbilt Friday at 8:30 p.m.
COVERING THE BULLDOGS: Wednesday’s game will include live audio from Kevin Copp in addition to the Georgia Soccer Live Blog on Georgiadogs.com. Live statistical coverage will also be available on SECSports.com.
Sunday’s championship match will be nationally televised live on ESPNU at 3 p.m. ET.
LAST TIME OUT: The Georgia soccer team struck first, but Tennessee rallied for a 2-1 win over the Bulldogs in the regular season finale Friday at Regal Stadium, giving UT the No. 3 seed and the Bulldogs the No. 4 for the SEC Championships.
Freshman Meghan Gibbons gave Georgia a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute as she took a pass from Carli Shultis, tapped it away from, then past Tennessee goalkeeper Molly Baird from six yards out. For Gibbons, it was her team-leading eighth goal of the season.
Tennessee, however, answered back two minutes later when Chelsea Hatcher stole a Georgia pass and fired a shot from the edge of the 18-yard box that tied the score at 1-1.
The score remained tied until the 68th minute when Kylie Bono put the Lady Vols ahead. After Georgia blocked away Tennessee’s first chance at a goal, Bono capitalized from inside the six-yard box for the game-winner. It was the first time since 2008 in which Georgia has lost back-to-back games.
With three shots in the game, freshman Alexa Newfield broke the Georgia single-season record for shots, now with 78 on the season. She surpassed Mandy Aiken’s mark of 76 that stood for 12 seasons.
LOOKING AT AUBURN: The Tigers clinched the SEC West and the overall No. 5 seed in the tourmament in dramatic fashion, scoring the tying goal with just 17 seconds left Friday vs. Alabama and winning it three minutes into the first overtime on a goal from Ana Cate that came from Katy Frierson.
Frierson’s two assists vs. the Crimson Tide gave her 12 for the season, tied for the third-most in a single season in AU history, and also gave her 71 career points, making her just the fifth player in Auburn history to crack the 70-point barrier.
Statistically, Auburn (11-6-2) is paced by Frierson (7g, 12a, 26p), while three other players have double digit points on the season. In goal, Amy Howard has played all 1,778 minutes and has logged a save percentage of 0.747, 65 saves, and five shutouts.
Auburn and Georgia met during the regular season on Senior Day for Georgia, resulting in a 2-1 win for the Tigers Oct. 24. The Dogs lead the all-time series 8-7-1 despite losing three in a row to the conference rival. Georgia has not lost to a team twice in the same season since 2003 (Florida).
GEORGIA IN THE SEC CHAMPIONSHIPS: Though they still seek their elusive first SEC championship, the Bulldogs would become just the third team to reach the title game three times in four seasons if they do so this year. They would join only Tennessee and Florida in that feat after the Bulldogs reached the SEC finals in 2007 and 2008. The Bulldogs have made three total appearances in the finals, also doing so in 2000.
The 2010 tournament marks Georgia’s sixth straight and 13th overall appearance. In 2009 the Bulldogs suffered a 3-2 heartbreaker to South Carolina in the first round.
Georgia is 9-12-1 all-time in the tournament.
GEORGIA IN THE NCAA: As a team, the Bulldogs stack up in a pair of statistical categories across Division I. Georgia is 13th in save percentage (0.875) and 16th in shutout percentage (0.500).
GEORGIA IN THE RPI: Georgia came in at No. 41 in the lastest RPI released Oct. 26. Following the South Carolina win and a tough one in Gainesville, Georgia was No. 43 in the third RPI release before jumping two spots the following week.
The Bulldogs were ranked No. 55 in the first ratings percentage index (RPI) released by the NCAA on Oct. 5 and No. 56 in week two Oct. 12.
The RPI is the most important criteria used by the NCAA to determine the 64-team field for the NCAA Tournament, comparing results and strength of schedule.
Additional RPI rankings will be tabulated on Nov. 7 in addition to the final tally announced Dec. 7 following the College Cup.
KEEPING IT OUT OF THE NET: The Bulldogs have given up only 15 goals all season (0.79 gpg) and have posted nine shutouts, seven in SEC play.
Heading up to the first Florida goal on Oct. 17, Ashley Baker had gone 4+ games without giving up a goal, totaling 561:08 of scoreless soccer for Georgia. That streak was good for the longest SEC scoreless run in school history and second longest overall behind Nicole Williams’ eight-game shutout streak in 1999.
Georgia allowed only seven goals in SEC play during the regular season. The Bulldogs have never allowed fewer than eight goals in the conference slate, giving up eight twice (2005, 2008) and nine three times (1995, 2001, 2007). Florida and South Carolina also allowed only seven goals in league play but played fewer minutes, securing Georgia the best goals-against average in the SEC.
Baker’s performance vs. Ole Miss and MSU two weeks ago earned the keeper her first ever SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
BAKER STACKING UP: Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Ashley Baker has been lights out in goal for Georgia this season, and even more so in SEC games.
The Lilburn, Ga., native ranks first in the conference in save percentage (.861), tied for first in shutouts (9), fourth in goals against average (0.74), fourth in saves (93), and fifth in saves per game (4.89).
In the NCAA standings, Baker is 21st in save percentage nationally.
EXTRA TIME: After not playing a single overtime game all season in 2009, Georgia has played seven already in 2010, just one shy of the program record eight played in 2002. The Bulldogs are 1-2-4 in OT games this season, most recently falling 2-1 in the first extra period to the Florida Gators Oct. 17 in Gainesville, Fla.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK: The Georgia soccer incoming class of 14 was highly touted all offseason, and the group has not disappointed. Through 19 games in 2010, the freshmen have scored 20 of 34 goals (58%), while adding 17 of 34 assists (50%) for 57 of 102 total points (56%). The frosh have logged six of 10 game-winners.
The biggest testament to the strength of the class was the Bulldogs’ two-week sweep of the SEC Freshman of the Week honors. The first two weekly awards went to Newfield and Locandro, respectively, on Aug. 30 and Sept. 6.
EARLY & OFTEN: With Alexa Newfield’s goal just 3:46 into the Alabama game, the rookie from Atlanta had scored in the first four minutes in three of the last four games. She scored just 3:09 in vs. Mississippi State, 3:13 in vs. South Carolina, and 3:46 vs. the Tide. Overall, Georgia has scored in the first 15 minutes in four of its last five games as Laura Eddy got Georgia on the board in the 12th minute vs. Florida.
After the early part of the season saw the Bulldogs do most of their scoring after halftime, Georgia has put up stronger first halves of late, scoring first in six of their last eight. Overall, the Dogs scored 17 of their first 22 goals in the second half but have since scored nine of the last 11 in the opening 45:00.
WHAT’S NEXT: The SEC Championships continues through Sun., Nov. 7 in Orange Beach. Following the conference tournaments around the country, the bracket will be set for the NCAA Tournament on Mon., Nov. 8 in a selection show to air at 4:30 p.m. on ESPNU. Georgia will be aiming for its school-record fourth consecutive trip to the tournament.