BY CLARK LEONARD
For The Times
Taylor Malasek and Chris Adams point to the offseason as the time the University of North Georgia women’s soccer team set the tone to return to the Division II NCAA tournament after a two-year absence.
On Monday, the Nighthawks cashed in those efforts when they were selected as the No. 3 seed in the Southeast Regional.
The team will begin NCAA play against No. 6 seed Mount Olive at 3 p.m. Florida in Hickory, N.C. The winner will face the victor between No. 2-seed Lenoir-Rhyne and No. 7-seed Wingate. That second-round contest will be played Nov. 24.
Team-building though military-style training led by Mike Ivy, North Georgia’s cadet admissions director, helped it prepare for the season.
“He put us in adverse situations that brought out the character of the team,” said Adams, the team’s 17th-year head coach. “What you saw then was a high-character team.”
That character appeared during the most impressive match of the season when North Georgia (15-2-2) tied Flagler 2-2 on Oct. 26 in Dahlonega. Flagler is the No. 3 team in the country and the No. 1 seed in the Southeast Regional after finishing 19-0-1. In the postseason, North Georgia will first face Mount Olive, which is 14-0-3.
Adams said the Nighthawks women’s basketball players were on hand much more often for voluntary workouts in the summer 2018 than his team’s players and reaped the rewards with a trip to the Elite Eight. He challenged his players to do the same. Malasek is grateful to see the payoff.
“We’re hoping to play as long as we can,” she said. “I’m excited to see how far this team can go.”
Malasek, a junior forward from Peachtree City, has led the way for the team. Her 16 goals are the second-most in the Peach Belt Conference, and she has four assists this season. Malasek also earned the Elite 15 Award, given to the student-athlete competing in each PBC championship who has the highest overall cumulative GPA. Malasek has a 4.0 GPA and is pursuing a biology degree.
Malasek is joined by freshman midfielder Maysoon El-Shami and senior defender Olivia Dumphy as first-team All-PBC performers. Freshman forward Katey Derkay was second-team All-PBC with eight goals and an assist. Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Morgan Ramby recorded 12 shutouts and was named second-team All-PBC.
Two other North Georgia teams had strong fall seasons: women’s cross-country and women’s golf. The UNG women’s cross-country team won two events, finished second in the PBC and earned a fifth-place finish out of 26 teams at the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional On Nov. 9 in Wingate, N.C.
Seniors Bree Hammond and Aleah Johnson and freshmen Karmen LeRoy and Olivia Henry earned All-PBC honors. LeRoy was also named PBC Freshman of the Year. Head coach Tom Williams said his team that featured seven freshmen and five sophomores gained valuable experience for the future.
Also earning All-PBC honors this fall were men’s soccer players Eren Ozer and Donovan Odier, who each earned second-team recognition.
Under the direction of first-year head coach Sierra Campbell, the UNG women’s golf team was ranked nationally for the first time. The Nighthawks finished the fall season tied for No. 24 nationally, which was second-best among PBC teams.
The fall golf season included a victory in the Oct. 28-29 finale at the Jekyll-O-Lantern Intercollegiate. North Georgia finished seven shots ahead of second-place Montevallo and 12 shots clear of third-place University of West Georgia.
The Nighthawks tallied a two-round score of 22-over-par 598, led by senior Megan Sabol’s 1-under 143 two-day total. Sabol also set a program record with a 9-under 135 two-day score at UNG’s LeeAnn Noble Memorial at Achasta Golf Club earlier in October.
The fall season provides some tangible momentum for the spring championship season.
“It’s a huge foundation to be able to say that we already have succeeded this much,” Campbell said.