GREENSBORO, N.C. – The sixth-seeded Belmont Bruins dropped to the No. 2 seed UNC Greensboro Spartans in the Southern Conference semifinal in overtime by a score of 3-2 Sunday at UNCG Soccer Stadium.
The Bruins (5-12-2) were sparked by a 27th-minute go-ahead goal from junior forward Jordan Dozzi and sophomore defender Brett Royster's first-career score in the 50th minute. Sophomore forward Niccolo Dagnoni recorded his third double-assist match of the season in the semifinals matchup.
The Spartans (9-8-1) logged a pair of second-half goals from sophomore forward Micah Albert and senior midfielder Albert Pedra (penalty kick). Pedra found the back of the net in the 97th minute to send UNC Greensboro to the SoCon Championship.
To kick off the first half, the Spartans applied pressure to the Belmont back line early with two corners and a pair of shots through nine minutes of play. The Bruins would get their chance to create offense in the 12th minute on their first corner kick of the evening, but it was cleared away by the UNC Greensboro defense.
Following another shot by the Spartans in the 24th minute, Belmont responded by finding the back of the net on its first shot attempt of the match just three minutes later. A set piece at the edge of the box put Dozzi on the receiving end of a bending cross from Dagnoni, as he finished the pass off with a volley goal in the 27th minute.
Dagnoni kept a full head of steam for the Bruins with his first shot on goal, but it found the mitts of the UNC Greensboro netminder. Belmont nearly doubled its lead on a corner kick in the 30th minute, but Borgel's shot was blocked by the Spartans before reaching the net.
Petty came up big for the Bruins to finish the first 45 minutes, as he corralled a pair of saves on well-placed shots from UNC Greensboro. His 40th-minute full-extension save awarded Belmont a 1-0 advantage at the halftime break.
The Spartans outnumbered the Bruins in shots going into the break, but Belmont held a 3-2 margin in shots on frame. Petty logged a total of three first-half saves.
The Bruins became the early aggressors to start the second half, as they totaled two shots in two minutes. Belmont doubled its lead in the 50th minute from the head of Royster to give the Bruins a commanding lead.
However, UNC Greensboro took just three minutes to respond to cut the Belmont lead to 2-1 in the 53rd minute. Pedra chipped a goal in on a Fastbreak on the service from sophomore midfielder Matthew Cutler.
The Spartans drew a foul in the box just 10 minutes later to earn a penalty kick, as Pedra registered the equalizer to knot the match at 2-2. UNC Greensboro went on to tally eight shots in the remainder of regulation time, as a pair of saves from Petty would send the contest to extra time.
Following nearly seven minutes of back-and-forth action, Pedra tallied the golden goal for the Spartans on an assist from freshman midfielder/defender Angel Bacho.
Overall, Dozzi and Borgel combined for four shots (two on target), as Petty came up with six saves on 20 shots faced for the Bruins.
WHAT A RUN: Belmont totaled eight goals and nine assists in its three postseason matches to finish out the year. Petty racked up 13 saves and posted a pair of shutouts in that span, as Niccolo Dagnoni led the Bruin attack with seven points (one goal, five assists) in the tournament.
BUILDING SOMETHING SPECIAL: Belmont has now tallied three tournament wins in its first two years as a member of the SoCon.
MILESTONES FOR CHICCO: Niccolo Dagnoni is now tied for the most assists (8) and eight-most goals (8) in a single season in program history. He also logged the third-most points (24) and fourth-most shots (50) in Belmont men's soccer history in the 2019 season. Additionally, Dagnoni is now tied for the fourth-best career assist total (12) and eighth-most career points (34) in program history.
SPREAD IT AROUND: The Bruins received points from 14 different players on the season, as only three Belmont players recorded none.
THANK YOU, SENIORS: The pair of Bruin seniors, Sam Borgel and Creaghan Diekema, totaled 130 matches played in their respective careers. Diekema and Borgel were vital in helping build the foundation and culture of the Belmont men's soccer program in their time in Nashville.