By Georgia Storm
Georgia Storm hosted North Alabama SC on a cool, rainy evening at Grisham Stadium on June 19, 2021. Storm took the kickoff and took it right to North Alabama, who were sluggish to start due to their travel after playing a tough match on Friday at Appalachian FC where after taking the lead, they fell 4-2 in the end.
As Storm grew into the match, they were finding success down the right wing. In the 10th minute, Storm’s Wilfried Kamdem Tchoupa took a quick throw-in to Brayan Palencia, and the two combined, ending in a terrific cross where Stephen Bivens outjumped the North Alabama SC center back to send the header in off the crossbar.
That superb header, which became Biven’s fifth goal of the campaign, gave Storm a great start to the match. As the rain began to pelt down, North Alabama SC played into the match, providing much more of a threat. In the 30th minute, Storm gave the ball away cheaply in midfield, and North Alabama thought they had equalized but the winger just hit the ball off the side of his foot.
Heading into halftime, Storm led 1-0 with neither side creating too many chances.
The second half started quickly for North Alabama SC who were showing their intent to get right back in the match. One minute into the second half, Storm’s Andrew Carleton slipped a pass through to Stephen Bivens who was clean through on goal, but it was flagged offside. From the subsequent free kick, North Alabama SC played a long ball that two Storm defenders misplayed, with it ending up over their head. North Alabama SC’s Miguel Tizapa ran onto the ball in the box and volleyed over the right shoulder of Storm’s goalkeeper to equalize at 1-1.
As an immediate response, five minutes later, Carleton slipped a pass through to Stephen Bivens who beat the goalkeeper to the ball 30 yards from net, but his left-footed shot clipped the outside of the right post so the score remained level.
As the match progressed, play was getting more and more physical. A foul around midfield elicited a response from a North Alabama SC player that the referee did not like, resulting in a red card.
As soon as the red card occurred, Storm head coach Josh Bivens made three substitutions and changed the formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2, signaling his intent to win the home match. In the 81st minute, Stephen Bivens received a pass and played winger Charlie Hill in behind . Hill beat his man and then picked out Avery Shepard at the top of the six on a near post run with aplomb, wheeling away to celebrate with his team in the torrential rain.
With five minutes to play, some good combination play in midfield saw Carleton alone on the left wing where he received a perfectly weighted pass from Kevin Barajas. Carleton drove inside, beating his man before unleashing a vicious strike from the top of the box that took a slight deflection as it went past the goalkeeper. This sealed the 3-1 win for Georgia Storm. The Storm stayed in second place with this win, needing a win next Saturday to clinch second place and a first-round home match.
After the match, Josh Bivens shared his thoughts on the match.
“The conditions were more difficult today, but the boys fought hard after North Alabama equalized,” he said. “It showed the great character that the players and the team has as we are preparing ourselves for a great run-in to end the regular season.”
Photo Credit: Matt Laczko