MARTIN, Tenn.- The Belmont women's soccer team will be competing in its fourth consecutive OVC Tournament on Friday, facing No. 7 seed Austin Peay in the first round at 3 p.m. at the Skyhawk Soccer Field.
Belmont's group of eight seniors is the first senior class to reach the OVC Tournament in all four years of competing in a Bruins' uniform.
"It's an exciting time because it's what you work all spring and summer for," head coach Heather Henson said. "It's not just being happy to be here. Now the goal is to win the first game. We're staying focused on that and staying focused in the moment because it's going to be a long conference tournament ahead, but we're going to take it game by game."
The last two OVC Tournament matches for Belmont have ended in dramatic fashion at the hands of SEMO, the 2019 OVC regular season champion. Having the winner decided by penalty kicks, Belmont was eliminated in its first match of the tournament with a 3-4 penalty kicks defeat in 2018 and a 4-5 penalty kicks defeat in 2017.
This year marks the second consecutive season where the Bruins have played and defeated their first round opponent in the regular season finale. Belmont defeated Austin Peay at Rose Park on Sunday 1-0 in front of a record-breaking crowd of 513 fans.
"It's interesting how this year it fell two years in a row where we're playing the team we just finished playing," Henson said. "They're fresh in our minds because we just played them, but that doesn't mean we're going to be content and assume we know how the game is going to go. There is no assumptions that last Sunday is just like this coming Friday. We've prepared, we've done our work and ready to play Austin Peay. It's a different day and we have to bring our game plan."
The Bruins are searching for its first OVC Tournament win in program history and its first conference tournament win since 2009, where they were members of the Atlantic Sun conference and defeated No. 3 seed Stetson 1-0. Belmont is also searching for its second conference tournament title and NCAA Tournament berth in program history.
The Bruins first conference tournament championship came in 2008 when the Bruins won the Atlantic Sun Tournament and clinched the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"Having the drive and determination and passion to do it is critical," Henson said. "That experience that our seniors have is the same way that they have led this season to continue to reinforce our entire team, live in the moment, bringing that passion and that discipline in each moment of the game."
Scouting Austin Peay
After ending the regular season with a 1-0 loss to Belmont, Austin Peay is looking to rebound in the OVC Tournament. Despite losing the match on Sunday, the Governors outshot the Bruins 18-14. Austin Peay has not had problems getting the ball in the back of the net, scoring in six of its final seven matches. While only averaging just over 10 shots per game, the Governors make the most of their opportunities with an average of one goal per game.
Claire Larose, Rachel Bradberry, and Anna McPhie serve as the key offensive players for Austin Peay, each registering three goals. Larose, however, has contributed in other offensive areas with five assists good for 11 points on the year. Ashley Whittaker has also registered multiple goals for Austin Peay. Mary Parker Powell looks to be the primary goalkeeper in the net, coming up with 74 saves on the season and having a save percentage of .747. She has accumulated close to 1,500 minutes and has a goals against average of 1.48.