CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Overcoming adversity is at the center of the "Be Belmont" mantra the Bruins women's soccer team tries to incorporate in everything it does. "Be Belmont" is a reminder to approach life with heart, commitment and integrity, find unity in strength through family, and battle to reach your goals.
There was a fair amount of hardship in Belmont's opening week of the 2018 season, a pair of stinging losses, but the Bruins are focusing on turning it around one game at a time. That climb starts Sunday with a non-conference visit to Cullowhee, N.C., and Western Carolina.
"I think it's important to remember how long the season is," began senior midfielder Megan Michela (Carol Stream, Ill.). "The middle of October is going to come quick, but we're here every day training and a couple bad games, it doesn't define us. I think it actually leads into what 'Be Belmont' means to us."
Belmont brings a 0-2-0 record into the matchup with the Catamounts, but the Bruins have never lost to WCU. They're 2-0 all time in the series, including a 3-2 win at home in 2017.
A victory would go a long way to getting things pointed in the right direction, even with Ohio Valley Conference games still three weeks away. The resolve is there and head coach Heather Henson knows the leadership of her seniors will be key in maitaining progress and finding that first win of the season.
"It's being able to utilize your leaders on your team. That's a big piece of what we've done in training this week: How do we utilize our leaders to help hold teammates accountable so the coaches can be instructing on tactical aspects of the game?" Henson said.
After a season-opening loss to Lipscomb, the Bruins fortified the defensive end to relieve some of the pressure on the goalkeeper against Middle Tennessee State. The offensive pressure is still there though, as Belmont scored three times against MTSU. The team's four goals on the year rank second in the OVC and sophomore forward Julie Garst's (Franklin, Tenn.) two scores put her in a tie for first in the conference.
With a full week to prepare for WCU, the Bruins put added emphasis on practicing with a fervor throughout the week's training sessions.
"It's not waiting for the game on Sunday, it's bringing the game to today and into every single training," Henson said. "Bring the intensity, the urgency and the calmness of it and not wait for the next game."
Kickoff with Western Carolina is at noon (Central Time) from the Catamount Athletic Complex.
BOSSUNG BREAKS THROUGH
Defender Sarah Bossung had to wait until her senior year to score her first goal with the Bruins, but the patience paid off in Sunday's game at MTSU. The Bruins drew a foul in the box to earn a penalty kick, which Bossung buried with ease. The goal marked her first point of any kind, goal or assist, in 57 games with Belmont.
Belmont and MTSU combined for three goals on penalty kicks Sunday. Along with Bossung's goal for the Bruins, Belmont allowed a pair of PK goals themselves. It's the first time a Belmont opponent has attempted two penalty kicks in a single game since Sept. 11, 2016, when Louisville went 1-for-2 in a matchup with Belmont. The Bruins only allowed one PK all of last season.
Bossung's goal wasn't the only notable achievement for the defender last week. The anchor of Belmont's defense, Bossung made her 38th and 39th consecutive starts against Lipscomb and MTSU. She has started each game dating back to the start of her sophomore year and has 50 starts overall under her belt.
Sunday's game at Middle Tennessee State was the first time the Bruins lost a game in which they scored multiple goals almost four years. Belmont had been 17-0 in its last 17 games in which it scored at least twice. The last such defeat was Oct. 24, 2014 vs. UT Martin, a 4-2 loss. Belmont had not scored three goals and lost a match since Oct. 24, 2002.
SHOTS, SHOTS, SHOTS
Belmont ranks third in the OVC in total shots with 27 through two games. The Bruins have two players who rank in the top 10 in the conference in shots with Garst checking in at No. 5 with six and Niki Clements ranking seventh with five. All those shots have resulted in four goals for Belmont, the second most in the conference behind just Jacksonville State (9).