Crowder, freshmen bring new spark to UGA soccer team

When Georgia soccer coach Steve Holeman describes Marion Crowder, he spits out her attributes rapid-fire.

The freshman can outrun everyone on her own team and nearly every one of her opponents. She is a quick, deadly threat in the 18-yard box. She can handle the ball well with her back to the goal and she can get in behind the defense.

She’s seemingly everything you want in a forward.

“On top of all that, she just has a fantastic personality,” Holeman said. “She energizes everyone around her.”

So much so that redshirt senior midfielder Laura Eddy called Crowder the Energizer Bunny.

“She makes sprint after sprint and always has a positive attitude,” Eddy said. “It really rubs off on you. You see her working hard and you work hard.”

Crowder leads the Georgia soccer team with six goals, five of which came in two games last weekend. And she netted four of the goals on Sunday in Georgia’s 5-1 victory over College of Charleston.

Crowder’s performance made so much noise that the local broadcast news station in her hometown of Madison, Miss., called this week asking for highlights to air on television. She also earned Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week honors.

“The chances just kept coming,” Crowder said after practice on Tuesday. “No one wakes up and thinks that’s going to happen, but I’m enjoying it and I couldn’t do it without the team.”

The Bulldogs (7-1) closed out their non-conference schedule on a seven-game winning streak, which they will put on the line against No. 17 South Carolina on Friday at the Turner Soccer Complex. It is the first time Georgia has pieced together that many wins since the 1999 season. 

Eddy attributed it to the Bulldogs capitalizing on scoring opportunities more often this season than they have in the past couple of seasons.

“When we get those chances, we need to finish them because obviously we’ve had a lot of chances these last few games, but especially in the SEC, you might just get a few chances and you need to be able to hit them in the back of the net,” senior midfielder Nicole Locandro said.

The Bulldogs, who have allowed three goals through their first eight games, have outshot their opponents 190-49 with a 23.75 average, including 10.5 shots on goal per game. They have ripped at least 20 shot attempts in all but one game and they have surpassed the 30-shot mark twice.

Through the first eight games of last season, the Bulldogs averaged 17.4 shot attempts per game and 7.75 shots on goal per game.

“You don’t want to be one dimensional because let’s face it there’s too many good defenses out there that can stop that,” Holeman said. “The more you have in the attack, obviously the more dangerous you’re going to be.”

Georgia has had seven players score goals, including forwards Madeline Barker (three) and Rachel Garcia (two).

But on Friday, the Bulldogs face a South Carolina team that is 8-0, has allowed one goal and 66 shot attempts. So turning shots on goal into points on the scoreboard will be key if the Bulldogs want to avoid an SEC skid like last season.

“I think we need to do a way better job of just being urgent in the box, being strong in the box when finishing opportunities are given,” said Crowder, a member of a 15-player freshman class.

Locandro and Eddy both said the rotation of the freshmen in the lineup has provided a spark for the team behind Crowder. The freshmen descended upon Athens a month before preseason camp began and got right to work with the veterans on their fitness, technique and footwork.

“They’re not a normal freshman class,” said Locandro, who has scored one goal.

It will be the combination of those freshmen and upperclassmen’s experience in conference play that will determine how the Bulldogs stack up against other SEC teams.

“We’re coming off of seven straight wins and we got to keep that attitude that we want to keep winning, but we’re not invincible,” Eddy said. “We don’t want to lose. Hopefully we just come out and treat every game like do or die.”