Oct. 7, 2011
ATHENS, Ga. --- The Georgia soccer team overcame its biggest deficit in history, rallying from down 3-0 with under 20 minutes to play to defeat Mississippi State 4-3 in double overtime Friday night in front of 1,815 at the UGA Soccer Stadium. Ashley Miller scored the game-winner in the 104th minute on an assist from Alexa Newfield, who scored two goals of her own on the night. It was a historic night for other reasons, as the win was No. 200 in program history.
The Bulldogs have never overcome being down 3-0 in the program's 17 seasons, while tonight is just the third time and the first since 2000 that Georgia allowed three goals and won.
Georgia uses the monumental comeback victory to improve to 9-4-0 (3-2-0) on the season while the Western Division Bulldogs drop to 4-6-3 (1-3-1). The Bulldogs are now an impressive 4-0 in overtime games this season.
"Alexa and I talked right before the second overtime started about that exact play," Miller said of the game-winner. "I told her if she got a through ball to me, it's on, and it happened. We were prepared for it. You don't always have a lot of time to think when the ball lands on your foot, so I am glad I finished. I'm so proud of our team and happy we got the win."
"What an incredible win," added head coach Steve Holeman. "I think this will go down in history as one of the greatest comebacks in Georgia Soccer history. When we went down 2-0 at half, we still had a lot of confidence. I felt like we played really well in the first half. But going down 3-0 then, it's a tall task to come back from. But credit our kids, they fought hard, stuck to the game plan, and got one back at a time. Once we got to OT, we didn't want to lose. A tie wasn't good enough for us."
Just like Sunday's game at LSU, Georgia allowed two early goals to find itself in a 2-0 hole with just 13:16 gone by in the first half tonight. The first MSU score came just 4:24 in, when Elisabeth Sullivan got her third of the season after a ball deflected to her off a defender, and she fired it past a diving Ashley Baker to make it 1-0. The other Bulldogs added their second goal when Tarah Henderson played another deflection into an empty net, taking passes from two teammates on the play.
Georgia had more than its fair share of chances in the first half, tying its season-high in shots with 24 in the first 45:00 alone but coming away with nothing to show for it as MSU guarded the 2-0 lead heading into halftime. At the break, Georgia led 24-6 in that category while Mississippi State keeper Skylar Rosson had already roped in 13 saves.
Miller had Georgia's best chance of the night to that point with just under 40 minutes to go in half No. 2, when she worked herself free in the middle and beat a pair of defenders before firing a rocket that went just barely wide of the far post. Newfield then would send a great service through the same to a charging Rebekah Perry on the right side, but the junior defender's offering was fired wide with around 34:00 left in regulation.
Mississippi State then made it 3-0 as the Bulldogs were awarded a penalty kick in the 66th minute, and Jasmine Simmons made it count, sending in her fourth score of the season past Baker, who guessed the wrong way on the free kick.
Georgia would cut the lead to 3-1 at 71:05 in the contest as Newfield stepped up for a Georgia PK and converted. The goal marked her team-leading 10th goal of the season to become just the ninth Bulldog to score double-digit goals in a single season and the first since All-America Carrie Patterson did so in 2009.
It got more interesting in the 82nd minute, when freshman Jenna Owens scored her long-awaited first career goal after taking a pass from Miller and firing it inside the near post from the corner of the 18. Owens had been sitting with five assists on the season, leading the squad, but was searching for the elusive first goal.
With under five to go in regulation, Miller roped a sharp left-footed service that sent Rosson diving to her left but the keeper corralled it to preserve the lead.
It was all tied up on another Georgia penalty kick, also taken by Newfield, after Meghan Gibbons was pulled down in the box. Newfield sent it into the left corner for her 11th goal of the season, placing her tied for seventh all-time for goals in a season and also into eighth place in Georgia history for career goals with 19 as only a sophomore.
Neither team could make good on a few late chances and the game was headed to overtime in Athens. It would remain 3-3 following the first 10:00, but Georgia got a great look under two minutes into the second extra period when Bailey Powell sent a booming service upfield to Miller, but the senior's cross missed Georgia feet in the middle.
But Miller would change that luck just moments later, as Newfield threaded the pass perfectly inside to the forward who beat Rosson on the near side with 6:58 left in the second overtime, sealing the 4-3 come-from-behind win for Georgia.
Despite giving up the game-winner, Rosson's 20 saves were a Mississippi State record, while Georgia ended with 42 shots on the goalkeeper, good for a sixth-place tie all-time. Newfield's 17 shots were a school record, shattering the previous mark of 11 held by Bentley Bickerstaff since 1997 vs. Wake Forest.
Tonight soccer became the 10th Georgia team to win 200 games, the first since the softball team did so in 2002. The Bulldogs are just the fourth SEC program - joining Florida, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky - to reach the milestone.
Georgia will look to build on tonight's excitement when it hosts Ole Miss on Sunday at 1 p.m. Live video coverage will be available on Georgiadogs.com while the game will also air on Athens radio 960 WRFC.