CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - Winning the penalty kicks battle 3-2, the Belmont women's soccer team won the 2019 OVC Tournament title and advanced to its second NCAA Tournament in program history, the first NCAA Tournament since 2008.
Claiming the championship as a No. 6 seed, Belmont becomes the lowest seed to win the OVC Championship in tournament history.
"To win the championship and to win in PK's for this senior class, it's one of the highest points of their four years," head coach Heather Henson said. "Everybody hates PK's. That just shows neither team wanted to give up and neither team wanted to make a mistake. SIUE did a fabulous job. For our seniors to do that, it was redemption for the PK's to go in our direction."
Coming into the second half with a scoreless tie, the Bruins quickly fired a shot on goal in the 46th minute only to be saved by SIUE. The Cougars came back with two corner kicks that registered in shots, but the go-ahead goal was prevented by Lily Herman to keep things scoreless.
Despite SIUE getting 14 corner kicks, the first time a Belmont opponent had 10 or more corner kicks since Sept. 4, 2015, the Bruins defended every SIUE chance by knocking the ball out of play or coming up with a save through the double overtime.
"We were all so excited to be in the championship and play such a good team," junior Julie Garst said. "They are a great team and it was a tough battle, for sure. Our team has been there for each other, especially the bench with yelling and cheering us on. It was just so important for keeping us in the game."
After a scoreless double overtime, Belmont's final OVC tournament match would come down to penalty kicks for the third consecutive year. Henson elected to go with freshman Sarah Doyle in goal, who had only played in one match in 2019, following a discussion a few weeks ago with Herman and the coaching staff after the senior goalkeeper suggested making the move, she said.
Senior Kameron Ziesig made the first goal in the shootout, but SIUE responded by taking a 2-1 lead. Doyle came up with a critical save with SIUE's third shooter, keeping things tied 2-2 following a make from Julie Garst.
"We definitely wanted to rewrite history this year and that's something we've talked about all season," senior AB Hawkins said. "We knew we were going to win. We had no doubt. We were so confident in Sarah and all of our shooters. We were pretty calm and ready for it."
Sydney Cason, who did not see action in the OVC Tournament due to a hand injury, put Belmont out in front 3-2. As the final SIUE shooter kicked it toward the goal, Doyle's diving effort resulted in a save and allowed Belmont to claim the title.
Scoring three of Belmont's six goals in the OVC Tournament, Garst was named to the OVC Tournament MVP and claimed a spot on the All-OVC Tournament team. Herman, sophomore defender Rachel Vernon, and Hawkins were also named to the All-OVC Tournament team.
"This championship would not happen without all of the alumni that have come through this program," Henson said. "All of our alumni have set the foundation for our program to take it step by step by step, trust the process and eventually get us this OVC Championship."
Belmont will await its NCAA Tournament destination, with the NCAA Tournament selection show scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and will be streamed on NCAA.com. The Bruins will hold a watch party on Monday in the Frist Lecture Hall and doors will open at 3 p.m.