NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After a dominant stretch through the month of September, the Belmont women's soccer team has hit a patch of adversity here in Ohio Valley Conference play.
Back-to-back loses have only sparked the Bruins' competitive spirit though. They feel as prepared as ever facing Jacksonville State and Eastern Kentucky this week.
"I think it was good for us after having that month of not losing games to early on in the conference season lose one," said senior forward Allie Svoboda (Lisle, Ill.). "We can bounce back from this and it's a good thing to remember what it feels like to lose, to give you that fire to go on and be successful."
The Bruins (4-5-2, 2-2-1 OVC) will put that fire to work when they travel to Alabama to play Jacksonville State (3-7-2, 1-3 OVC) at 7 p.m. on Friday. Belmont will then be in hosting duty against Eastern Kentucky (5-5-2, 1-1-2 OVC) at 2 p.m. at E.S. Rose Park on Sunday. That game will also be senior recognition day for the Bruins' six departing seniors.
Goals have been hard to come by during a two-game skid, but that's not due of a lack of effort. The Bruins hounded Tennessee Tech with 19 shots in their last outing, even though that onslaught came in a loss.
That starts at the top with sophomore forward Julie Garst (Franklin, Tenn.).
"Julie continues to create so many opportunities for us," said Belmont Head Coach Heather Henson. "She just has such vision of the field. She can create it for herself and creates it for her teammates too."
Against Tech on Tuesday, Garst had a team-high five shots, but her hustle also opened up space for teammates. Junior Kameron Ziesig (Brentwood, Tenn.) tied a career high with four shots, three on goal, and senior Jessi Boozer (Brentwood, Tenn.) fired another three shots. Fellow sophomore Paige Hewitt (Knoxville, Tenn.) had a pair of solid chances as well.
Friday will come as a quick turnaround after Tuesday's contest, a makeup date from a rainout earlier this season. While tiring, yes, the scheduling anomaly has been a motivator for Belmont as well, Henson said.
"We have used it to fuel us, to make us stronger and bond us stronger together," she said. "Every game is a battle that you're fighting for those three points."
Jacksonville State holds the edge 7-4 in the all-time series with Belmont, but Belmont is 4-2 against the Gamecocks since joining the OVC in 2012. The Bruins won 2-1 the last time the game was on the road in 2016.
Belmont and Eastern Kentucky are an even 2-2-2 in their all-time series with EKU having won the past two meetings. That includes a 1-0 shutout of the Bruins the last time Belmont hosted in the series in 2016.
SCOUTING THE GAMECOCKS
Jacksonville State brings a 3-7-2 record into Friday's contest with a 1-3 mark in OVC games. The Gamecocks are sputtering recently with just one win in their past 10 outings and have scored just two times in four league games while surrendering a OVC worst 10 goals.
Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Morgan Lerch has done an admiral job facing the onslaught. She has a 1.33 GAA, .721 save percentage and has posted four shutouts despite her 3-7-2 overall record. Senior midfielder Claire Petersen leads the offense with three goals, one coming on a penalty kick.
SCOUTING THE COLONELS
Eastern Kentucky is 5-5-2 after a mid-week 4-3 double-overtime win over Morehead State on Tuesday, a makeup game from a rainout occurring the same week as Belmont's with Tennessee Tech. That means both teams are coming into this weekend on short rest, playing both Friday and Sunday. The win over the Eagles was the Colonels' first in OVC games where they sport a 1-1-2 record.
Sophomore Sarah Owusu scored the game-winner for EKU in the matchup with Morehead in the 105th minute for her fourth goal of the season. Junior forward Erin Torrence leads the team with six goals and four assists.
FIRST TIME CHARMS
Kameron Ziesig and Paige Hewitt each scored their first career goals against Eastern Illinois last week. Ziesig, a junior, scored by bending in a corner kick while Hewitt, a sophomore, scored on a direct free kick.
SPREAD THE WEALTH
Ten Bruins have combined to score Belmont's 13 goals this season with Julie Garst the lone player scoring more than one (4). That's tied for the most individual scorers in the OVC with Murray State (24 goals total).
SHOOTING UP THE RANKINGS
Sophomore forward Julie Garst ranks 29th in the NCAA with 4.18 shots per game. She is second in the OVC in both shots per game as well as total shots (46) and her four goals are tied for seventh.
LOTS OF SHOTS
Belmont's 19 shots against Tennessee Tech are its most since taking 25 against UAB on Sept. 7. Its 10 shots on goal from the Tech game are its most since firing 12 on net against LIU Brooklyn on Sept. 2.
STRONG START TO CONFERENCE
Belmont's 2-0-1 start in OVC games was its best mark to start a conference slate since joining the league for the 2012 season. The Bruins' best previous start came in 2014 at 1-0-2. Belmont's best overall start to conference play, a 5-0-1 stretch in 2009, came as a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Belmont head coach Heather Henson broke the program record for career wins, earning No. 53 to pass Lisa Howe (2005-10) for first place on Sept. 21 vs. Morehead State. Now in her eighth year with the Bruins, Henson has compiled a 54-64-19 overall record.