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Rockdale's Gilland leading Oxford on soccer field

OXFORD -- The Oxford College women's soccer team is protecting its house with a local hero leading the way.

Rockdale County native Alison Gilland recorded a hat trick and added an assist Sunday as the Lady Eagles (3-2) slipped by Andrew College 4-3 to remain undefeated at Bivings Field this fall.

"It was a fantastic game to watch," said Oxford College coach Gregory Moss-Brown, whose team played Middle Georgia College on Tuesday and will host Brevard (Fla.) Community College at 10 a.m. on Sunday. "It was a players', coaches' and spectators' game. It was a battle that got quite heated -- it was our second time around with Andrew."

The Lady Eagles, who lost a 1-0 game on Sept. 3 at Andrew College in Cuthbert, fell behind again on Sunday, but the team achieved a quick and significant change of fortune, thanks in no small part to Gilland, who graduated from Young Americans Christian Academy and began playing soccer at the age of 4 under the auspices of the Rockdale Youth Soccer Association.

"Since I've known Alison, she's had a knack for being in the right place at the right time," said Moss-Brown. "Sometimes she has what you might call ugly finishes, but a goal is a goal. But on Sunday, it was different. Her finishes were a little more clinical -- she was in the perfect spot and got off good shots."

The 5-foot-7 sophomore midfielder's first goal came off an assist from freshman Torrie Howard and her second and third scores came on rebounds from free kicks by freshman Amy Van Pelt. The eventual game-winning goal was tallied by freshman Kalysea Lovan, although it made the score 4-1 at the time.

"When we were at Andrew last week, we really didn't play our game," said Gilland. "We decided, as a team, before the game that we were at home and we needed to defend our territory. We also wanted to show Andrew that we know how to play. I had some success out there, but I didn't do anything super-phenomenal. Torrie had a nice assist and the other two goals came off free kicks from Amy. She gave me a great opportunity to attack and score the second and third goals."

Gilland, who is a pre-nursing major and one of five sophomores on the team, said although she's long been interested in college soccer, she didn't harbor thoughts about continuing the game when she enrolled at Oxford College in the fall of 2010.

"I didn't come to Oxford expecting to play, but I got a call from (Moss-Brown) and he asked me if I was interested in playing," she said. "When I told him I was, three days later I was moved in and on the field, and I've been there ever since.

She said her freshman season was a "building year" for the Lady Eagles, adding her education was not limited to the classroom."We had a solid year, with a group of sophomores that taught me a lot, both about soccer and about Oxford," Gilland said. "They helped make the transition a lot better."

"Last year was my first year as coach, and Alison was a player I inherited," said Moss-Brown. "I quickly learned that when you get Alison, you also get a very supportive family. She was plagued with an injury and was out a lot as a freshman, but anytime she got knocked down, she got right back up. Without a doubt, I knew in the preseason that she was going to step up and be one of our captains."

When her time in Oxford ends next spring, Gilland said she plans to pursue a nursing degree. Her mother, Deena Gilland, is director of nurses at Emory's Winship Cancer Institute, but Gilland said she'll pursue a different branch of the vocation.

"I'm interested in trauma," she said. "My little brother was seriously injured in a jet-ski accident and the trauma unit that took care of him did an amazing job. That made me want to go into it."

Gilland has enjoyed her tenure on the Oxford College soccer team and looks forward to Sunday's opportunity to help defend Bivings Field.

"When this team is together, it's like a family," she said. "We're all friends with each other so there's much more than a soccer dynamic going on here. We're looking forward to the opportunity to defend our back yard again. We want to keep that going."

For more information on the Oxford College women's soccer team, visit www.oxford.emory.edu/athletics.