BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – A strong second-half surge wasn't enough as the Belmont women's soccer team dropped its final exhibition match of the preseason at Western Kentucky, 3-2, on Sunday at the WKU Soccer Complex.
Two second-half goals, one by senior midfielder Jessi Boozer (Brentwood, Tenn.) and a WKU own goal off a shot by sophomore forward Julie Garst (Franklin, Tenn.), helped Belmont erase a 2-0 halftime deficit, but a late goal by the Hilltoppers proved to be the difference.
"We had to be more of a presence in the midfield (in the second half), finding a way to play more as a unit and own that midfield," Belmont Head Coach Heather Henson said. "They did a phenomenal job of taking the points that we talked about and being able to translate that in the second half."
Western Kentucky came out firing, controlling the offensive zone and possession of the ball across the first 45-minute half. The Hilltoppers fired nine shots to Belmont's two in the opening half. Three of those WKU shots were on frame with two sneaking past the Belmont goalkeeper, sophomore Abby Hunt (Surrey, B.C., Canada). Both came from the Toppers' Sarah Gorham.
Belmont responded from a halftime locker-room talk with fire. The Bruins crowded the box in the first minute out of the break and Boozer cleaned up an entry pass from fellow senior Sarah Bossung (Nashville, Tenn.) to get Belmont on the board.
"We knew we had to change something from the first half," Bossung said. "Being down 2-0 was not ideal, but all of us knew we could fix whatever our problems were. The coaches gave us a list of things to fix and I think we took that and ran with it and definitely improved in the second half."
The offense wasn't done there though. Just 20 minutes later, Garst took a pass up the right side and curved a bouncing shot off a defender to fool fresh keeper Bailee Witt, who had entered the match only moments before.
WKU snapped the Bruins' scoring streak with 11 minutes left in the contest. Chandler Backes beat Belmont keeper Lily Herman (Springboro, Ohio) for what proved to be the game-winning goal. Herman finished with six saves as Western Kentucky compiled a 19-4 advantage in total shots.
The Bruins wrapped up their preseason slate with an 0-1-1 record with the match's conclusion. Belmont tied with Chattanooga in an exhibition bout earlier this week, a 1-1 final on the road at Finley Stadium. Boozer provided the lone goal for the Bruins in that match.
"We played two very different teams with two different styles, so we had to solve problems in game," Henson said of her team's exhibition slate. "We did that either through coaches or field players and I think that makes us a stronger team all together."
Belmont's regular-season schedule gets underway in less than a week on Friday, Aug. 17. The Bruins host crosstown rival Lipscomb at E.S. Rose Park, a 6:30 p.m. start. A short roadtrip to Middle Tennessee State follows on Sunday, Aug. 19 in further nonconference play.