Knoxville, TN - 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.
Georgia (10-5-4, 5-3-3 SEC) will be the No. 4 seed in the SEC Tournament set to begin Wednesday in Orange Beach, Ala.
“This is a tough one,” said Georgia head coach Steve Holeman. “I was extremely disappointed with our performance in the first half. Unfortunately we waited until the last 20 minutes of the game to start playing, and in order to win in the SEC you have to put forth a 90-minute effort.
“The bottom line is we have to go down to Orange Beach to win the tournament. We approached this game with a very poor mentality. We didn’t perform well, and it was the first time in a while we played a bad half. We have to change that and we have to play for 90 minutes.”
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 (10-8-1, 7-3-1 SEC), 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.
The Bulldogs had a chance to pull even just inside of 12 minutes left when Tennessee was called for a foul on its defensive end just outside the 18-yard box. On the free kick, Alexa Newfield’s shot was knocked away by Baird, and the Bulldogs were unable to score on the rebound.
Another Georgia chance was thwarted with five minutes remaining when a shot by Laura Eddy hit the crossbar, and Tennessee held on for the win.
With three shots in the game, Newfield set a new UGA season record with her 78th shot of the season, passing the mark set by Mandy Aiken of 76 shots in 1998.
Ashley Baker finished the game with three saves for Georgia.
The Bulldogs will face the No. 5 seed Auburn in the first round of the SEC Tournament Wednesday at 8:30 p.m ET. The winner will face either Florida or Vanderbilt Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET.