CHARLESTON, Ill – After entering halftime in a 0-0 stalemate, the Belmont women's soccer team broke out for three second-half goals in a decisive 3-1 victory over Eastern Illinois on Friday afternoon in Ohio Valley Conference play.
Belmont's scoring surge lifted the Bruins to their second straight OVC win, moving the team's record to 2-0-1 in league games and 4-3-2 overall. The Bruins also extended their unbeaten streak to six games, the best such stretch in the OVC.
"We're getting to that peak at the right time," said junior Kameron Ziesig (Brentwood, Tenn.). "Everybody is on the same page now, no more working through new players and new formations. Everybody has come together and conference play has been a huge motivator."
The Bruins and Panthers (3-6-3, 2-2-1 OVC) played in the middle of the field throughout most of the first half, each team trading three shot attempts over the opening 45 minutes. The scoreless streak wouldn't last long after halftime though.
Ziesig scored her first career goal in the 52nd minute, bending a corner kick in on the fly from the left corner. Ziesig bent and dipped the ball just under the cross bar and inside the far post.
"You want to take it with your right foot if you're on that side because it'll bend in some," Ziesig explained. "I hit it and thought, 'Oh good, that's going right where I wanted, the 6-yard box.' Then it just kept curving."
Belmont extended its lead just five minutes later when sophomore Julie Garst (Franklin, Tenn.) split a pair of defenders and beat the keeper despite the heavy traffic. The goal extended Garst's team lead in the category to four. Playing in her home state again, senior Emily Whitcomb (Elmhurst, Ill.) provided the assist.
EIU cut the deficit in half, 2-1, in the 78th minute, but sophomore Paige Hewitt (Knoxville, Tenn.) provided a key insurance goal just two minutes later. She scored on a direct free kick from just outside the 18-yard-box.
"I knew I had to step up in that moment, and I knew I had my team behind me supporting me and cheering me on," Hewitt said. "I'd had some good shots in warm ups, so I felt confident."
Along with its three second-half goals, Belmont fired seven shots after halftime and increased its pressure dramatically. During Belmont's six-game unbeaten streak, the Bruins have outscored their opponents 6-3 in the second half.
"Our coaches play a big part in that, getting us refocused at halftime and giving us key pointers," Hewitt said. "As a team we adjust well to what they're trying. We all want it, and really that's just the bottom line."
The will Bruins look to extend the streak to seven games Sunday when they return home against SIUE. That game is slated for 2 p.m. at E.S. Rose Park.