Traveling East: No. 5 Alabama takes on Georgia in Athens

Will Miller, Staff Reporter

The Alabama soccer program continues to reach new heights, and on Thursday, the team will play its first match while ranked in the top five. 

On the back of six straight wins and 10 straight matches without a loss, the team (10-1-1, 3-0 SEC) has ascended to No. 5 in the rankings. Next on the docket is a matchup with the Georgia Bulldogs in a bid to move to 4-0 in conference play. 

The Crimson Tide has posted four shutouts in its six-match win streak. Most recently, Texas A&M fell in Tuscaloosa by a 3-0 score. Midfielder Felicia Knox, forwards Riley Mattingly Parker and Gianna Paul each scored a goal. 

Knox set the single-season school record for assists in the contest with her 11th.  

Alabama will carry a 4-1-1 road mark into Athens, with notable wins against then-No. 6 BYU, Utah Valley and Tennessee. Georgia is 4-1 at home.  

The Bulldogs (8-3, 2-1 SEC) have won seven of eight. The blemish on that run was a 1-0 defeat against South Carolina, which Alabama beat. Georgia surrendered a goal with less than nine minutes to go.  

The team rebounded by beating Florida 3-0. 

In that match, the Bulldogs poured on three goals in less than 10 minutes during the second half while disallowing Florida a single shot on goal. Joyelle Washington scored her fourth goal of the season, tying the team lead. 

Combining Georgia’s two goal leaders still wouldn’t equal Alabama’s goals leader, Mattingly Parker, who has nine. The Bulldogs do have a sole assists leader, Madison Haugen (six). 

Each team is stingy on defense. Alabama has surrendered a mere five goals — Georgia has given up seven. The Crimson Tide defense has made it incredibly difficult for other teams to possess the ball in Alabama’s half and get the ball out of their own side of the pitch.  

The teams have the same number of shutouts this season — seven each. 

This match has all the makings of a close one. The matchup consists of teams with similar strengths, and there is little doubt that Alabama is in a position where it is getting every opponent’s best. As has been the case in other road situations, if the Crimson Tide is to win, its defense will need to stand firm. 

The offense has done an excellent job complementing that, and with 13 goals in the last three matches, scoring is going well right now for the Crimson Tide. 

“They’re going to be incredibly organized,” head coach Wes Hart said. “I think they’re in a spot right now where they’re kind of right there competing for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, so they know a win against us would be big for their resume.” 

“We got to make sure we approach it the right way.” 

Hart and Knox both said Georgia is a side with good athletes.  

“I’m excited for Georgia,” Knox said. “I think even though [the Georgia crowd] might heckle, they might yell — there’s nothing more exciting than silencing a crowd. Doing our thing away is even more exciting, honestly.” 

The match will kick off on Thursday night after being moved up from its original start date. Kickoff time is 5 p.m. CT on SEC Network+.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]