MARTIN, Tenn.- Scoring two goals in the final 20 minutes of regulation, the Belmont women's soccer team defeated No. 3 seed UT Martin 3-2 on Sunday afternoon in the OVC Quarterfinals.
The Bruins advance to the OVC Semifinals to play No. 2 seed Murray State, making Belmont the first No. 6 seed since 2015 to advance to the semifinals of the conference tournament.
"Honestly, it just doesn't feel real right now," senior goalkeeper Lily Herman said. "We are just so excited to continue to be able to keep playing soccer with the people we love and playing the sport we love. We're all just really excited right now."
With UT Martin scoring in the opening minute in the Sept. 22 regular season matchup to take a 1-0 victory, the Skyhawks quickly jumped out in front again. UT Martin scored the match's first goal in the fifth minute of play, with Bella Roberts getting the goal off an assist from Jill Hildreth.
Belmont, however, made it clear that this match was nothing like the one in the regular season. Seven minutes later, Julie Garst got the ball off a deflection and scorched it in the back of the net to tie the match 1-1.
"I just had a different kind of feeling today," Garst said. "I was more focused today and I wasn't as focused on my mistakes like the last game (against UT Martin). Today if I missed a shot, I was saying, 'Just focus on the next one and focus on putting the next one in.'"
UT Martin looked to gain the advantage of a one-on-one opportunity in the 65th minute, but Herman dove for the ball and snagged a save to keep it knotted at one goal each. Five minutes later, Garst broke free and came up with a shot that hit the crossbar.
Freshman Avery Nowak, however, quickly snagged the ball and fired a shot in the back of the net for her first career goal and gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead with 20 minutes to go. After Herman dove for a save five minutes later, the Skyhawks looked to capitalize off an open shot. Belmont kept the lead in check, with the Bruins' defenders assisting Herman by knocking the ball away before reaching the back of the net for a team save.
"We have faced so much adversity this season as a whole that we were ready for anything," Herman said. "There was no doubt in our minds that we were going to be able to get it done."
Roberts came up with the equalizer two minutes later, scoring the tying goal for UT Martin off an assist from Alice Adams. Belmont responded three minutes later, with Garst scoring her second goal of the match that allowed the Bruins to regain the lead 3-2.
The Bruins recorded another team save and Herman collected her seventh save of the match to hold onto Belmont's lead in the final 10 minutes. Garst's three goals through the first two rounds moved her career goal total to 19, putting her in a tie for fifth with Liz Jallo (1998) for most goals in program history.
"I just remember after scoring that first goal, I had this immediate feeling in me that was like, 'We're going to win this," Garst said. "I kept saying, 'I know we got this,' even after they scored that second goal. I just had it in my mind, 'We got this. We're not going to lose this game. We're going to win this in regular time.' It's really special."
Belmont continues its run in the OVC Tournament in the semifinals on Friday, facing Murray State in Cape Girardeau, Mo., at 3 p.m.