It's a battle in The Peach State in this week's DII women's soccer showcase. No. 3 Columbus State travels to Dahlonega, Georgia, to take on North Georgia in a match with major postseason implications in both the Peach Belt Conference and Southeast Region.
Columbus State has been a DII women's powerhouse for the past several seasons. North Georgia has put up plenty of wins of its own, making the NCAA tournament in both 2016 and 2017. The team that eliminated the Nighthawks in both years? Yes indeed, it was the Columbus State Cougars. It's safe to say there's no love lost between these two PBC powers.
No. 3 Columbus State (13-0-1 overall; 9-0 in PBC)
The road to the NCAA tournament in the Southeast has gone through Columbus State for six straight years. Despite all the wins and deep runs into the DII Women's Soccer Championship, the Cougars are still chasing that elusive national championship.
Senior Olivia Jarrell has become a fixture atop the DII leaderboards in her four years in Columbus. The senior All-American forward is at it again in 2018, leading the PBC in goals (15) and points (39), while tied for the lead in assists (9). It's not all Jarrell, however, as the Cougars are deep and balanced. Riley Clark (nine goals, six assists), Rachael Sweigard (seven goals, three assists) and Kimmy May (four goals, eight assists) all show much-needed versatility, able to find the back of the net themselves or set someone else up that can.
North Georgia (10-3-1 overall; 6-2-1 in PBC)
The Nighthawks are right behind the Cougars in many offensive categories in the PBC, so there should be goal opportunities aplenty in this one. North Georgia scores 3.07 goals per game and leads the conference in corner kicks (102) and shots per game (23.4).
Senior Renee VanHorn paces the offense, leading the Nighthawks with 12 goals. She's responsible for delivering six of the game-winning goals for North Georgia this season as well. Taylor Malasek is also one to keep eyes on, with her eight goals tied for fifth in the conference.
It should be an interesting showdown in net as both goalkeepers are stingy when it comes to allowing goals. The Cougars Bria Riancho is second-best in the PBC allowing just 0.73 goals per game, but junior Hannah Goudy isn't far behind with a 1.08 goals against average. That is inflated by a three-goal performance on Sept. 6 against Lee, as Goudy hasn't allowed more than one goal since, a span of eight starts.
What's at stake?
For Columbus State, it's business as usual. The Cougars have the PBC locked up and are headed to the tournament as the top seed. They are currently No. 1 in the Southeast Region and solidifying an undefeated season will likely keep them there.
For North Georgia, there is quite a bit to lose. This is a must-win if the Nighthawks want a chance to host a quarterfinal game. Stuck in a logjam at second place with Lander and Flagler, and UNC Pembroke — who beat the Nighthawks last time out — right behind, the Nighthawks can rest easy with a win no matter what anybody else does as they prepare for a home match in the playoffs.