CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.- The Belmont women's soccer team takes on No. 4 seed SIUE in the OVC Championship on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Houck Stadium, looking for its second conference tournament title and second NCAA Tournament appearance in program history.
With a victory, Belmont would become the lowest seed in OVC Tournament history to win the tournament title.
"Winning any game in the conference tournament just continues to propel us forward and every goal you score and every goal you deny just continues to build confidence," head coach Heather Henson said. "The opportunity to beat higher seeds is advancing us one more steps in this championship game."
☝️more win to get the @OVCSports �� and a bid to the @NCAASoccer Tournament! Content from tonight's OVC Semifinal win over No. 2 seed Murray State ⬇️— Belmont Womens Soccer (@BelmontWSoccer) November 9, 2019
��| https://t.co/818rPCuzoZ#itsbruintime | #BruWIN pic.twitter.com/h4pjb1YHge
The Bruins battled from behind in the Oct. 10 regular season matchup against the Cougars, having to overcome that adversity with two starters out due to injury. Down 2-0 at the half and experiencing a two-hour lightning delay, Belmont scored three goals to leave Edwardsville, Ill., with a double overtime draw.
After starting OVC play with an 0-3 record, Belmont has bounced back to win or tie nine of its last 10 matches.
"There were a lot of external factors that we had to deal with," Henson said. "We continued to get better as that game when on. We did not start where we wanted to and at a level where we can start a game at. I think we've learned a lot from that. We've grown through that in the season."
Belmont is playing in its third conference tournament championship in program history, with its last conference tournament title coming in 2008 when the Bruins won the 2008 Atlantic Sun Tournament. In 2008, Belmont defeated No. 6 seed Stetson and won the penalty kicks battle against No. 2 seed Kennesaw State and No. 1 seed Mercer to claim the title.
The Bruins have scored six goals in OVC Tournament this season, marking the most goals by a Belmont women's soccer team in one conference tournament.
"It's been a goal for us to play in the championship game and win the championship," Henson said. "We've just continued to stay focused in the moment, but with an ultimate goal and not letting that drive our future. To be in this position, it's a way that the ladies' hard work gets to pay off. They have just continued to fight and I'm so excited for them to have this opportunity."
SIUE leads the OVC in most goals with 45, winning or tying its last eight matches to make its trip into the OVC Championship. The Cougars are looking for its first conference tournament title since 2016 and looking for its third OVC Tournament title in program history. SIUE has shutout four of its last five opponents, outscoring their opponents 14-2.
MacKenzie Litzsinger leads the Cougars' offense with 13 goals on a shot percentage of .241, with five other players registering four goals in the process. Becca Jostes gets involved with a handful of goals, assisting on seven goals this season. Jensen Schoch has been one of the best in the net in the OVC, having a save percentage of .881. She has a record of 8-1-2, only allowing 10 goals to go with 74 saves.
- This is Belmont's third conference tournament championship appearance and first since 2009.
Belmont's six goals are the most goals scored by a Bruins' women's soccer team in a conference tournament in program history
With an assist in Friday's match against Murray State, junior Julie Garst now has 45 points for the seventh-most career points in program history.
Niki Clements' fourth game-winning goal of the season moves her tied for the second most game-winning goals in a single season with Belicia Mendiola (2017).