ATHENS, Ga. - The University of Georgia soccer team defeated the No. 23 Kentucky Wildcats, 1-0, to clinch the SEC East Division regular season championship for the first time in program history Thursday evening at the Turner Soccer Complex before 1,601 spectators.
"(Associate head coach) Jason (Lockhart) said it best in the huddle," Georgia head coach Keidane McAlpine said following the match. "Anytime we do something for the first time, it's special. It's foundation-building for the program. When we came in, this is kind of what we started thinking about. It's a testament to the work that the women have put in, and it's not easy to do this in this league in the East. So, to have that kind of response and whatnot is special."
Redshirt freshman and reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Week Summer Denigan scored her fifth goal of the season to boost the Bulldogs ahead. Georgia (8-3-4, 4-2-2 SEC) tallied 15 shots on the night. Kentucky (8-2-5, 2-2-4 SEC) posted seven total shots, with two shots on goal. Sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Brown recorded a pair of saves throughout the full 90 minutes as she earned her fourth shutout of the season.
The Bulldogs opened the game fast, putting up four shots within the first 20 minutes. In the 21st minute, graduate Hannah White navigated the ball to the corner of the keeper's box and sent a short pass to Denigan, who kicked the ball to the bottom left corner of the net to give Georgia a 1-0 advantage. The Bulldogs' defense only allowed the Wildcats two shots for the remainder of the half as Georgia notched 10 shots in the opening period.
"Obviously, (our end goal) is to win a national championship, but the little things are to finish out the season strong," White said. "We still have two big games that are really important, so that's on our list right now. Just finish the season strong and start getting ready for obviously SEC play, but also seeding for NCAAs."
Georgia opened the second half strong, ripping a shot on goal by redshirt senior Nicole Vernis within the first five minutes. Kentucky was limited to three shots in the second half. Brown posted her second save of the night in the 86th minute off a Wildcat corner kick and stopped a corner in the final 10 seconds to seal the win.
"Keep the energy high and win out the rest of our games to put us in the best position for the SEC tournament and NCAAs," Denigan said following the match.
The Bulldogs will return to the pitch on Sunday, Oct. 22 when they travel to Columbia to face the South Carolina Gamecocks. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m., and the match will be live on SEC Network+.