EDWARDSVILLE, Ill.- After an hour and a half lightning delay and being down 2-0 following the first half, the Belmont women's soccer team climbed its way back to finish in a 3-3 tie over SIUE on Thursday night at Korte Stadium.
The tie gives the Bruins one point in the OVC standings, still putting them ahead of SIUE.
"It was a night of elements for both teams and that always makes for an exciting soccer game," head coach Heather Henson said. "We didn't start off well. First half wasn't the level we needed to play. We came back in the second half and played a little bit better. In the lightning delay, we challenged them: how can we start the next period and the next part and raise our level of play to what we can do. They took that challenge and they ran with it."
With Belmont playing its first game in rain since Aug. 25 against Lipscomb, SIUE was quick to be the offensive aggressor. SIUE's Mackenzie Litzsinger scored in the 14th minute off an assist from Angel Ikeda to give the Cougars the opening goal.
20 minutes later, the Cougars doubled its lead with another goal. Litzsinger gave a pass to Lily Schnieders, allowing SIUE to take a 2-0 that carried over into the locker room.
The Bruins, however, scrapped for offensive opportunities in the second half and capitalized off a free kick in the 55th minute. After the ball bounced around the penalty area, Paige Hewitt knocked it in the back of the net for her second goal of the season and cut the deficit 2-1.
Seven minutes of play passed before a lightning bolt was spotted and the match went into an hour and a half delay. While Belmont's offensive momentum was temporarily taken away, the Bruins attempted to keep the energy going in the locker room.
With music being blasted, dance competitions taking place, and the coaches giving them a challenge to all step up to the plate, the Bruins jumped out of the delay and picked the momentum right where they left it.
"We only had so long to warm up (after the delay) and we were all very cold and started doing some sprints to get warm," sophomore Sydney Cason said. "We got hyped up in the locker room with music, so we came out on the field ready to go."
Cason was determined to at least end the match in a tie within the next seven minutes, with an NCAA rule stating that games can be called after 70 minutes if another lightning delay is in effect. The Franklin, Tenn., native did exactly that, scoring her first goal of the season, and her first since Oct. 7, 2017, in the 66th minute off an assist from Julie Garstto to tie the match 2-2.
SIUE's Andrea Freker responded four minutes later, scoring an unassisted goal that allowed the Cougars to regain the lead.
Following a foul on SIUE, sophomore Rachel Vernon looked to capitalize off a free kick. Vernon floated a ball inside the penalty box, allowing freshman Claire Fallon to come up with the header in the back of the net and tie the match with six minutes left to play in regulation.
"(The ball) came out of nowhere. I wasn't expecting to be the one to finish that goal for our team," Fallon said. "It was a great feeling. Thanks to Julie (Garst), who basically blocked the goalkeeper for me. It was exciting and a great feeling, for sure."
The Bruins' defense turned up the intensity in the overtime, only allowing one shot on goal to SIUE during that stretch. Keeping the ball out of the Cougars' possession, Belmont managed to force its third tie of the season.
Belmont drew 20 fouls on Thursday, marking the first time since Aug. 21, 2016 against UIC where they drew 15 or more fouls.
"This is a game that we need to be focused in the moment, but step up when your time comes," Henson said. "The young ladies were stepping up in the moments that were needed for them whether it was a goal, a defensive effort, or gaining composure. I'm unbelievably proud of them."
Belmont is off from game action for eight days, traveling to Eastern Kentucky on Oct. 18 for its final regular season road match at 3 p.m.