Panthers have tools to finally win Sun Belt Conference Championship

Photo by Julian Pineda | The Signal

It’s just the journey to exact that revenge that will be tough. Georgia State men’s soccer team is currently 11-5-1 in the season and undefeated in the Sun Belt. They are currently first in the Sun Belt and made more separation after defeating Hartwick 3-0 on Saturday. With only one game remaining in the season, they will in all likelihood finish there. Their final game comes against the next best team in the Sun Belt Conference, Coastal Carolina. Coastal Carolina is a very fitting place to start their revenge tour.

They broke the Panthers’ hearts last season. Georgia State made it all the way to the Sun Belt Conference Championship, for the second year in a row, and it seemed like the game was theirs. The match was scoreless for nearly 70 minutes. Georgia State dominated possession and routinely found good opportunities to score, but couldn’t find the back of the net.

But then Coastal Carolina’s Jair Espinoza happened.

He was able to break free and put in the lone goal of the match, winning it for Coastal. That’s why Georgia State will gladly begin their march to a third straight Sun Belt Conference Championship with Coastal Carolina. But beating this particular school in the regular season isn’t their focus. It’s about beating whomever they meet in the championship.

And they will.

In all honesty, they should’ve won it last year. A mix of injuries and one bad break cost them championship. This year the Panthers will enter the Sun Belt tournament fully healthy and a better team than last year. With two games remaining, the Panthers have already eclipsed last season’s win total. They look better defensively this season and their seven shutouts can attest to that. Offensively, their key pieces are looking in top form with 32 total goals between them this season. Hannes Burmeister is second on the team in goals, and Max Hemmings is right behind him. But what’s going to win the Panthers the championship this year is the one player they didn’t have in it last year: Rashid Alarape.

The clutchest goal scorer in the Sun Belt. Rashid Alarape saved his best season for last. In his senior season, he leads the team by amassing over 19 total points, one assist and nine goals. Alarape provides exactly what the team missed most in the championship last year: killer instinct. Alarape doesn’t shy away from the moment–he fully embraces it. His three game-winning goals are a testament to that. If Alarape were not injured during the finals last year, I can almost guarantee that the Panthers would be walking into the Sun Belt tournament as the defending champions.

But he will make amends for that this year. He’s going to help gift Georgia State the best going away present– a championship. We have the best team in the conference, the clutchest goal scorer in it, and even a little luck on our side.

They do say the third time’s the charm, right?