High-scoring Georgia soccer off to best start in 8 years

Georgia forward Mollie Belisle (12) dribbles in the open field during the Bulldogs’ match against Georgia State at Turner Soccer Complex in Athens on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh/UGA Athletics)

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Georgia forward Mollie Belisle (12) dribbles in the open field during the Bulldogs’ match against Georgia State at Turner Soccer Complex in Athens on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh/UGA Athletics)

ATHENS -- While the Bulldog Nation has been hyper-focused on its No. 2-ranked Georgia football team, a football team of another sort has been quietly building a great start to its season.

The women’s soccer team of coach Billy Lesesne defeated Presbyterian 5-1 Thursday night to improve to 6-1 on the young season. That represents the Bulldogs’ best start since 2013, when they also started 6-1.

And while a lopsided victory over the Blue Hose (1-6) will come as no surprise, Georgia hasn’t been stockpiling victories over over-matched opponents. Last week, just two days before the Bulldogs’ football team locked up with No. 3 Clemson in Charlotte, Lesesne’s team bested a No. 15-ranked Clemson soccer team 3-1 over at the Turner Soccer Complex. It was was the Bulldogs’ first win over a ranked opponent since 2015.

There are a lot of reasons for Georgia’s early success, but putting the ball in the net is a main one. The Bulldogs’ lead the nation in scoring. That’s right, the whole nation. Georgia already has scored 32 goals, or 4.6 a game. They are led by the country’s No. 1 scorer in Mollie Belisle.

Belisle is a fantastic story herself. A graduate student who attended Atlanta’s Holy Innocents Episcopal School, Belisle chose to take advantage of the NCAA’s eligibility waiver for last year’s COVID season and play one more year.

Belisle, then an off-bench scorer, suffered an ACL tear during her sophomore season and really wasn’t the same for the next two seasons. Well, she’s fully recovered now and playing fantastic. Belisle has recorded two-goal games four different times this season, including last week’s win over Clemson. She already was named the SEC Player of the Week and U.S. Coaches National Player of the Week for her efforts.

“I don’t have words,” Belisle told The Red and Black after the Clemson game. “I owe it to my team. Without them, I would not be scoring goals, without their support, without everything that they do for me.”

The stakes are about to go up. Thursday’s victory closed an eight-game home stand to open the season. The Bulldogs head to Charleston, S.C. this weekend to take on the College of Charleston (1-5-1), then will open SEC play on the road against No. 10 Auburn, a perennial conference power. Mississippi State comes to Athens on Sept. 23 for Georgia’s SEC home opener.

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