NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Behind a hat trick performance from senior Niki Clements, the Belmont women's soccer team scored three unanswered goals in the second half to defeat Jacksonville State 4-1 on Sunday afternoon at Rose Park.
Clements' three-goal performance is the first Belmont hat trick since Lauren Paynter's three-goal match on Sept. 18, 2009 against Alabama A&M. The Perkasie, Pa., native is the first Bruin women's soccer player to collect a hat trick in an OVC game.
"I wasn't really expecting it, but it feels good," Clements said. "It feels good. It feels good to win with the team and we had a great team effort leading to all the goals. We had such good assists this game and had such good build ups it led to perfect opportunities toward the net."
Belmont came out as the early aggressor, collecting a corner kick in the 21st minute that resulted in three consecutive shots. Freshman Claire Fallon recorded her first career assist off Belmont's first goal, passing it to an open Clements from 20 yards out to give the Bruins a one-goal lead.
With the Bruins collecting its first halftime lead of the season, the score was tied seven minutes into the second half. A miscommunication from the Bruins' defense led to an own goal, but Belmont responded just five minutes later.
"It says a lot for their mindset," head coach Heather Henson said. "We talk a lot about mindset and being focused in the moment and they understand that. They grab a hold of it. If something bad happens, then we move to the next moment and we live in each of those immediate moments. That's a great example of how they were able to respond without worry and brought the next moment in and then created a goal scoring opportunity within minutes of that."
20 minute later, junior Julie Garst stretched the lead with her fourth goal of the season. Erin Patterson, who recorded her first career assist as a member of the Bruins, set Garst up for an open one-on-one opportunity and resulted in a two-goal lead.
The goal gave Garst her 16th career goal, moving her into a tie for ninth for most goals in program history.
"I saw Erin put her head up and she played a perfect ball," Garst said. "I knew I was in the moment she played it. Props to her for playing such a good ball. It felt really good just knowing we got that third goal and we didn't have that much time left in the game. It felt like we put the game away."
Clements capped off the game with her third goal of the match six minutes after the Bruins' third goal, scoring off an assist from Garst in the 82nd minute to give her the hat trick. The performance also marked the first time since Oct. 1, 2017 where a Belmont women's soccer player accumulated six points in a match, with Belicia Mendiola doing so against Jacksonville State.
Belmont's third straight win marks two out of the last three seasons where they have won three conference games in a row. The victory also gives the Bruins nine points in conference play, skyrocketing them to third place in the standings.
"This reminds us why we love the game," Henson said. "This will remind us to continue to have fun in the moment and enjoy the game and realize we play at our best when we're enjoying our family together and enjoying the game we love."
Belmont goes back on the road on Thursday, traveling to SIUE at 7 p.m.