UPDATE: Due to inclement weather, Sunday's game vs. Valparaiso has been moved from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at E.S. Rose Park.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Coming off a double-overtime thriller last week, the Belmont women's soccer team hopes to ride its recent success through the conclusion of nonconference play and a pair of home games at E.S. Rose Park this weekend.
The Bruins welcome in UAB (2-3) on Friday for a 6:30 p.m. game before getting a visit from Valparaiso (2-2-1) on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Belmont overcame a late goal deficit to force overtime in its last outing, a 2-1 victory over LIU Brooklyn. Having thoroughly tested its mettle, a team with renewed confidence will now go for its first winning streak of the young season.
"The overtime win was a great example of their mental toughness as a team," said Belmont Head Coach Heather Henson. "As a team we realized how much stronger we could be, and they did a great job of taking that into the training this week."
Henson's next win will tie the program's all-time mark for career victories. She is 51-62-17 in her eighth year with the Bruins.
To get there, Belmont will need to continue its recent improvement in ball possession. The Bruins have outshot opponents 32-16 in the past two games, and much of that success comes from a more deliberate attack. Belmont has put greater focus on possessing the ball from the defensive third of the field and working it more gradually into the attacking zone.
The payoffs have come in a pair of close contests and Belmont's first win of the season.
"We want to eliminate how many opportunities our opponent has and then create more opportunities for us to have more shots on goal. That's two fold and all of it comes from possessing the ball more often," Henson said.
This weekend's showdowns wrap up Belmont's six-game nonconference slate. The Bruins, who were picked to finish fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference preseason rankings, begin OVC play a week from Friday with a short road trip to Clarksville, Tenn., to face Austin Peay.
Belmont is looking for its first win against University of Alabama Birmingham, having gone 0-2-1 so far in the series history. The teams met last year in Birmingham, a 1-1 draw. The only time the Blazers have come to Nashville, UAB won 3-2 in overtime in 2011.
Valparaiso holds the advantage as well with Belmont having gone 1-4 in five matches, including last year's 1-0 loss on the road. Belmont fell 2-1 in 2OT the last time the team's played in Nashville in 2015. The Bruins' only win in the series came in 2014, a 2-1 road victory
SCOUTING THE BLAZERS
UAB brings a 2-3-0 record into Friday's match and is 1-1 on the road this year. All five of the Blazers' games – six if an early season exhibition match is included – have resulted in a UAB win or loss via shutout.
The Blazers are averaging just 5.8 shots per game and 0.80 goals so far this season while allowing 19 shots per game. Jamiera Lunsford and Kamilah Mustafa have all of the team's goals at two apiece. Goalkeeper Kelsey Daugherty, a First Team All-Conference USA pick a year ago, has been forced to make 37 saves in just five matches.
SCOUTING THE CRUSADERS
Valparaiso started the week 2-2-1 after snapping a three-game winless streak with a victory over Robert Morris on the road last Sunday. The Crusaders play at Middle Tennessee State on Friday evening before finishing the weekend's road trip at Belmont on Sunday.
Cory Griffith is the player to watch for the Crusaders. After matching the Valpo single-season record with 11 goals in 2017, Griffith already has five in five games this season. Four of Griffith's goals came in that Robert Morris victory, another program record. The rest of the team combined has scored just once.
With her next victory, Belmont head coach Heather Henson will tie Lisa Howe (2005-10) for most career wins in program history with 52. Henson is just the second coach in Belmont women's soccer history to reach 50 career wins and has compiled a 51-62-17 record during her eighth-year tenure with the Bruins.
SVOBODA STRIKES AGAIN
Senior Allie Svoboda scored in her season debut against LIU Brooklyn, her first goal in more than two years' time. Svoboda, who missed all of the 2017 season due to injury, last scored on Aug. 28, 2016 against South Alabama.
MICHELA IS CLUTCH
Senior Megan Michela's goal in the 107th minute against LIU Brooklyn proved to be the game winner in the second overtime period. It's Michela's first GWG this year after she put up three such goals in 2017, tied for the third most in a single season in program history.
Sophomore Julie Garst recorded seven shots against LIU Brooklyn, a career high and the most by a Bruins player this season (Belicia Mendiola had two seven-shot games in 2017). Garst now has 15 shots on the year and her 3.75 shots per game rank third in the OVC.
The anchor of Belmont's defense, Sarah Bossung made her 41th consecutive start against LIU Brooklyn. She has started each game dating back to the beginning of her sophomore year and has 52 starts overall under her belt.