Georgia Gwinnett and CSU San Marcos Win A.I.I. Tournament

The Georgia Gwinnett men and California State University San Marcos women won the Association of Independent Institutions Tournament and will now advance to the NAIA national tournament.

The A.I.I. post season tournament, hosted by Georgia Gwinnett, featured the same four schools and seedings on both the men’s and women’s brackets. The Ashford University Saints from Clinton, Iowa were the #1 seed, followed by Cal State San Marcos (San Marcos, California), Georgia Gwinnett, and Lindenwood University-Belleville (Belleville, Illinois).

Friday’s semifinals started with the men’s teams. Ashford and LU-Belleville fought to a scoreless first half, but Ashford cruised in the second half to a 6-1 victory. There was no cruising in the second game as GGC and CSUSM played a great, very close game for 90 minutes. It was also scoreless at half time, but goals by Rene Enang and Essie Aburime gave GGC a 2-1 victory.

The women’s bracket had the same match-ups in Friday’s later games. Ashford jumped on top early against LU-Bellville and didn’t let up, moving to a 6-0 lead and an eventual 7-1 victory. Slight drizzles throughout the day turned into a steady rain for the nightcap, but GGC and CSUSM still managed to play quality soccer in lousy conditions, and they were tied 1-1 at the half. Second half goals by the Cougar’s Paulina Good and Dani Porter moved CSUSM to the finals.

The men kicked things off on Saturday, with GGC and Ashford going scoreless in their first half. But Ibrahima Sissoko broke the tie in the 52nd minute to give GGC the lead. Callum Mordey and David Burke added insurance goals and the Grizzlies booked their spot in the NAIA tournament with a 3-0 win.

After the game, Grizzly head coach Steve DeCou talked about his team and the first ever championship for Georgia Gwinnett. “I can’t be more proud of the kids and the way they played. What a second half. We’re the first [champions]. No one can take that away from us.”

The Ashford and CSUSM women’s teams then took the field under a full moon in Lawrenceville. There was action at both ends of the field in the early going, but neither team was able to create a good scoring chance. Coming off her line to get a loose ball, Ashford goalie Jessica VanDyke was whistled for a foul in the penalty box. Paulina Good converted the penalty kick and CSUSM had a 1-0 lead in the 23rd minute. Good, named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player for the women, said getting the first goal was vital. “It’s really important because it lets you set a pace for the game.”

Natalie Lara hit a beautiful curving shot to the lower 90 just four minutes after Good’s PK and CSUSM tipped in a corner kick just before half time for a 3-0 lead that would end up in a 3-1 victory.

Cougar head coach Ron Pulvers said his team’s offensive pressure was a key to the game. “I feel like we really disrupted their rhythm. Our press was so good they couldn’t get out of their half of the field.”

All four teams played great soccer at the A.I.I. tournament. And the Georgia Gwinnett Athletics staff also deserves a tip of the cap for putting on a well-run, successful tournament all weekend.

Georgia Gwinnett and CSUSM are now assured berths in the NAIA national tournament. The NAIA has announced that the Ashford men’s team will get an at-large bid to the tournament as well. The NAIA brackets will be announced on Monday, November 18.

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