NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Keeping focus on the task at hand is crucial now that the Belmont women's soccer season has entered Ohio Valley Conference play. There's an unpredictability in the league and a moment's lapse could weigh heavy in the end-of-the-year standings.
That's why coming away with points in every game is so important, Bruins head coach Heather Henson said, and her Belmont squad has a pair of Eagle opportunities to do so this weekend. BU is at home Friday against the Morehead State Eagles at 6:30 p.m. at E.S. Rose Park before traveling Sunday for a 6 p.m. start at the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles.
The Bruins (2-3-2, 0-0-1 OVC) gave Austin Peay a run last week before settling for a 1-1 draw. That's still a positive outcome, but they'll be looking for more Friday against a team that epitomized the OVC's uncertainty a week ago.
Hey you! Come out to Friday's game at 6:30 pm at E.S. Rose Park to be part of the President Spirit Award competition. Sign up a team through BruinPromos@belmont.edu. pic.twitter.com/nAvnNA0nAK— Belmont Womens Soccer (@BelmontWSoccer) September 20, 2018
The Eagles (2-8, 1-1 OVC) broke an eight-game losing streak when they scored the game-winning goal on a penalty kick with just three seconds left to beat SIUE. Two days earlier though, Morehead State lost at home to Eastern Illinois. That snapped EIU's 13-game winless streak in conference games that dated back to 2016.
"Every team is playing to the last whistle," Henson said, "and that's just reminding us what we do well and how we can stay disciplined to what we do well."
Taking shots certainly fits within that category as the Bruins rank third in the OVC in shots per game at better than 15. Belmont has been taking steps in training to make sure more of those turn into goals though, with the Bruins sitting in the middle of the pack at just 1.29 scores per game this year.
"We've got to finish on the ball," said junior midfielder Niki Clements (Perkasie, Pa.). "I definitely think it's good that we're having all these shots. We've just got to figure out a way to get them in the back of the net. It'll start coming for sure."
After facing Morehead State, Belmont will make the quick road trip to Cookeville to play Tennessee Tech (4-4, 1-1 OVC) on Sunday. This week marks the first of four straight split weekends for Belmont, where the schedule keeps the Bruins at home for a game and sends them on the road for another with only a day's rest in between.
No other OVC team faces more than two such weekends this season.
"It's a short trip Sunday, but we're going to have to shift our minds from home games to away games," Henson said. "That's why for us it's about taking it game by game, because the rest of our conference weekends will be split. That's a rhythm we're going to have to find and fall in to."
Belmont holds slight advantages in the all-time series against both Morehead State and Tennessee Tech. The Bruins are 4-3-1 against MSU -- including a 2-0 road shutout victory a year ago and a 3-0 home blanking in 2016 -- and 9-8-2 against Tennessee Tech. The Bruins' nine wins vs. Tech are tied for their most ever against a single opponent, though the Golden Eagles have won three straight in the series.
SCOUTING THE EAGLES
Morehead State snapped an eight-game losing skid with a 1-0 shutout of SIUE this past Sunday. The Eagles have scored just three goals in their past seven games.
Senior Dani Wilson has scored three times to lead the way, including two in a 3-2 loss at Kent State earlier this month. Sophomore Goalkeeper Eva Helgadottir has helped keep the games close, leading the OVC in both saves (62) and save percentage (.816). No other OVC keeper has more than 35 saves this year.
SCOUTING THE GOLDEN EAGLES
Tech split its opening weekend of OVC matchups, including a 1-0 loss at Austin Peay whom the Bruins tied just days before. That snapped a three-game winning steak for the Golden Eagles, two of which came by shutout.
Sophomore Kendall Powell leads the Tech offense. Her five goals and 19 shots are more than twice any other team member, and her three game-winning goals are tied for the OVC lead. Senior goalkeeper Kari Naerdemann has started all nine games in net with a 1.36 GAA and a .692 saver percentage.
Belmont head coach Heather Henson is on the verge of history. With her next victory – career win No. 53 – Henson will pass Lisa Howe (2005-10) for most wins in program history. She tied the mark with her 52nd win vs. Valparaiso two weeks ago.
Henson is just the second coach in Belmont women's soccer history to reach 50 career wins. She has compiled a 52-62-19 record during her eight-year tenure with the Bruins.
SPREAD THE WEALTH
Eight different Bruins have combined to score Belmont's nine goals this season with sophomore Julie Garst the only player with more than one (2). That'sthe second most individual scorers in the OVC behind UT Martin (9), though the Racers have more than twice as many goals overall (20).
The Bruins have not lost in their last four outings, tied for the longest active unbeaten streak in the OVC this season. The 2-0-2 stretch follows Belmont's 0-3 start to the season in which the team allowed 12 goals. Belmont has surrendered just three goals since and has allowed four overall in their past five games.