Saturday, November 7, 2009

Three Comebacks, One Championship

Within a three-day span at the Atlantic Sun Women's Soccer Championships, three comebacks fueled Kennesaw State's run to their second title in the last three years, but only one took place on the field in terms of goals.

In Saturday's title match with the defending champion Belmont Bruins, the Owls recovered from allowing a first-half penalty-kick goal to the Bruins' Jessica Rix with a pair of goals in the second half to claim the league championship. The first goal came courtesy of Maylee Attin-Johnson on a half volley to right side of the net.

Attin-Johnson had a head in the Kennesaw State attack that ultimately resulted in the Owls' second goal. Her header on net would have found goal if not for a lunging save from Rix, but with the ball still inside the penalty area, the Owls earned a penalty shot of their own after a hand ball inside the box.

For Attin-Johnson and teammate Caitlin Dingle, the goal scorer in the Owls' 1-0 semifinal overtime victory against Jacksonville, Saturday's championship completed comebacks two years in the making. As sophomores, both had been part of a championship squad in 2007 that rolled up a 17-4 record and the program's first A-Sun Championship.

The following season, Dingle opened the year as the league's preseason Player of the Year and the Owls picked up all 11 first-place votes from the coaches as the league favorite. Injuries cost Attin-Johnson her entire 2008 campaign and Dingle only played in three games. Both watched from the sidelines as the Owls' bid for a repeat title ended against these same Bruins in the semifinals on penalty kicks. In 2009, both worked their way back into the lineup and delivered a third regular-season crown and a second A-Sun Championship victory.

"To come back from knee surgeries takes a lot and they've been getting better and healthier the longer the season has gone on," Owls' head coach Rob King said. "And to cap it like that, particularly for Maylee with a fantastic goal, but both of them, on their home field in front of home fans and to go back to the NCAA Tournament, it doesn't get any better than that."

Following her goal, Attin-Johnson bolted up the near sideline, past the boisterous crowd and displayed the speed she displayed prior to her injuries.

"I think it was all adrenaline, " Attin-Johnson said. "After I ran I was tired, I was like 'what am I thinking about' but I had to do it; I had make that run, my people from the Caribbean came out [for] support, so I had to give them something to cheer about."

In the postgame awards ceremony, when it came time for the Owls to collect their hardware, the team's three seniors, Attin-Johnson, Dingle and Defensive Player of the Year, Bridget Gaughan, accepted the trophy before returning to the rest of the team

"I looked at Maylee and Bridget [Gaughan] and we were like 'this was the way it was supposed to be'...the three seniors, we're not done yet," Dingle said. "We win at home, we win our conference, our conference tournament, we're going to the NCAA tournament, it couldn't be any better."


  1. Congrats to Kennesaw on a great match. Unfortunately, I feel the game was marred by an unruly fan that kept yelling at the officials, Belmont parents and players. The game and competition is between the sidelines and between the players. There's no place for this kind of unsportsmanlike behavior. I wish the KSU staff would have removed this person so the fans could have enjoyed the game.

  2. As a former player, coach and referee, I was a bit surprised by the two PKs called in the championship match. Usually, for this kind of stage, you really have to be mugged to have a PK called. Both were not flagrant and could have gone either way. Belmont's PK happened early in the game which allowed Kennesaw to adjust their play for the equalizer. However, to call a PK (handball) with 3 minutes left was really unfortunate for Belmont. I actually thought the center would have called a direct outside the 18 after conferring with the linesman. We actually talk about these situations before and during half time because in a perfect world, officials shouldn't affect the outcome of a match. To Kennesaw's credit, they did score the lone non-PK goal and deserved to win.


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