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Oh so close

Oh so close

CULLOWHEE, N.C. – The Belmont women's soccer team put together its best defensive game of the season Sunday at Western Carolina, but a lone goal allowed just before halftime did the Bruins in during a 1-0 defeat at the Catamount Athletic Complex.

Against Western Carolina (2-1-1 overall record), the Bruins (0-3-0) looked more comfortable and confident in the defensive end and the results followed. Belmont's defense set season bests in goals allowed (1), shots against (8) and shots on goal allowed (2), all by significant margins. 

"They only had like once decent shot on goal," said junior defender Shannon Maitland (Belleville, Ill.). "That's a huge improvement even within this one game. We're seeing baby steps. The scoreboard tells you who wins and loses, but there's small victories within that for us."

Unfortunately that one decent Western Carolina shot yielded the game's only goal. A minute after a WCU goal was waived off due to offsides, the Catamounts connected again just before halftime. A long shot from outside the box by junior forward Cami Couch sailed just over the Belmont goalkeeper's outstretched arm to give the home side a 1-0 lead in the 43rd minute.

Belmont was outshot 6-2 in the first half, but the Bruins improved their possession after the break and limited the Catamounts to just two shots from then on. Neither of those were on goal.

"The season is a journey and I think they took another step in that process today," Belmont Head Coach Heather Henson said. "I'm very proud of the effort and the way we limited their scoring opportunities."

Belmont goalkeeper Lily Herman (Springboro, Ohio) handled the first half in net, making one save, while Abby Hunt (Surrey, B.C., Canada) came on in relief in a shutout second half.

The Bruins' best scoring opportunity came in the opening half. Sophomore Halle Krebs (Lakewood, Ohio) fired a shot that bypassed the WCU keeper and struck the crossbar. The ball careened back down into the field of play, nearly crossing the goal line, and bounced around dangerously before a Catamount defender could clear the threat.

While Belmont limited shots at a season-best rate, its eight shots attempted also marked a season low. Three were on goal and WCU keeper Natalia Icen finished with three saves, two off the foot of Krebs and one on a shot from sophomore Julie Garst (Franlin, Tenn.).

"We need to do a better job of possessing the ball, building our attack," Henson said. "We need to take another step there in keeping our possession into the middle third and beyond." 

Belmont now returns to E.S. Rose park to begin a three-game home stand starting next weekend. The Bruins host LIU Brooklyn on Sunday at 12:05 p.m., the first ever meeting between the two programs.