ATHENS, Ga. – Powered by two goals from graduate forward Mollie Belisle, the University of Georgia soccer team came from behind to defeat Kentucky, 2-1, before a season-high 1,873 spectators Sunday afternoon at the Turner Soccer Complex.
After conceding an early goal, Georgia (10-3-1, 3-2-1 SEC) used Belisle’s two goals to take the lead from Kentucky (6-7-2, 0-6-0 SEC) and held on for the final 70-plus minutes for the victory. The result clinched the first 10-win season of head coach Billy Lesesne’s tenure and guaranteed an above-.500 record for the season.
For the match, Georgia outshot Kentucky, 22-13, including a 12-5 advantage in shots on goal, while the teams were even with four corner kicks. Belisle led the Bulldogs with five shots (four on target), while four players amassed three. In goal, senior keeper Emory Wegener tallied four saves over the 90 minutes.
“To get back to winning ways at home is very important,” said Lesesne following the match. “It was a hard-fought game today, just as it was on Thursday, but you always know that when you get into league play. We really did not start the game well, again, by going down early at home. Really good response there, Dani (Murguia) finding Mollie, Mollie finishing a great goal. I thought after halftime, we settled in and had a little better play in the second half. Our team has managed the games well and gotten leads. We’ve had to work so hard to get back into the game. Against Arkansas, we got one back and we didn’t get the next. Today, we were able to get two and that’s it from there. So, I’m really proud of the team for the effort they put forward today.”
Kentucky wasted little time climbing onto the scoreboard as forward Hannah Richardson drove past the Georgia backline for a strike, but her attempt was deflected by Wegener. Unfortunately, Richardson played the rebound to teammate Jordyn Rhodes, who dropped it in the net as Wegener was now out of position and unable to defend, giving the Wildcats a 1-0 lead just four minutes into the match.
The Bulldogs quickly responded in the eighth minute as Belisle headed in a cross from Murguia, who was set up by a pass from sophomore forward Madison Haugen. Murguia’s assist increased her season total to 10, making her only the third player in program history to post double-digit assists in a season and only one away from tying the single-season record set by Suzannah Weathersbee in 1996.
In the 16th minute, Belisle took possession and elected to shoot from deep, connecting from 20 yards out on a blistering strike, putting the Bulldogs ahead for good. With 14 goals this season, Belisle moved back into a tie for first nationally with Arizona State’s Nicole Douglas and Hofstra’s Miri Taylor. Her total is also tied for the fourth-most in a single season, matching Mandy Aiken in 1998.
Georgia continued to rely on its defense moving forward, including a beautiful kick save from Wegener in a one-on-one situation in the 29th minute, as well a diving stop five minutes later. In the second half, the Bulldogs earned three corners, but were unable to convert. In the 74th minute, freshman forward Danielle Lewin nearly tacked on an insurance goal as her header off a Caroline Belisle assist just missed the net. Without allowing a Wildcat shot in the final six minutes, the Bulldogs sealed their second-consecutive win, the first back-to-back divisional wins for the team since 2014.
Georgia now heads on the road for a divisional match at South Carolina on Friday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. in Columbia. The match will be streamed live on SEC Network+.
For complete information on Georgia soccer, follow the team on its social media channels via @UGASoccer on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
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