Game Against Nighthawks Offers Braves A Shot At Redemption
There is a piece of paper on UNCP women’s soccer head coach Lars Andersson’s office door that features 12 bullet points. Each one is a different goal that the team set prior to this season.
The goals deal with a variety of factors and are mostly long-term. Finish in the top two in the Peach Belt Conference. Never lose in overtime. Average two goals per game.
The 11th item on the list is one that can be addressed by the team today.
Revenge on North Georgia.
The quest for redemption against the Nighthawks begins at 3 p.m. in Dahlonega, Ga. North Georgia ended UNCP’s season last year by beating the Braves 4-0 in the PBC tournament.
The rivalry between the two programs has been evenly matched recently after UNCP had success against the Nighthawks for multiple seasons.
“We had a number of years there where we had an upper hand on them, but the last couple of years almost every game has ended in a draw,” Andersson said. “Last year we drew 3-3 in the regular season in a wild game that was a Wild West-style shootout, he who scores last shall win.”
Both teams have been playing well this season. The Braves have not lost in eight consecutive games and are currently 5-1-1 in PBC action. North Georgia is riding a four-game winning streak. The most recent victory was a 10-0 drubbing of Georgia Southwestern on Oct. 18.
UNCP is also in a more feasible predicament than it was when it faced the Nighthawks in the conference tournament.
“It is worth mentioning that we were coming off that insane finish to the regular season where ended up having to play 10 games in three weeks due to the three that had been postponed thanks to Hurricane Matthew,” Andersson said. “I don’t want to use that as an excuse. North Georgia absolutely got the better of us. It was really the only time we got smashed last year.”
The Nighthawks and the Braves are ranked second and fourth in the PBC, respectively. While the idea of revenge is in play for UNCP, Andersson wants his team to remain focused.
“I think this is an important game for our players,” Andersson said. “At the same time, I’d like to think every game is important. I often speak of the quality of the PBC. I always say in this league, if you overlook any opponent, it’s going to creep up and bite you in the face. It’s the best women’s D2 soccer league in the country as far as I’m concerned.”
Brandon Tester directs sports coverage at the Pine Needle. You can follow him on Twitter @Tester_Brandon.