Belmont men’s soccer drew No. 18 Missouri State University in a key conference match Sunday afternoon at E.S. Rose Park.
Coming back home after three road games – two losses in Iowa and a tie at Bellarmine University – Belmont walked away with a point by shutting down the nationally ranked Bears, ending the team's 15–match win streak.
The Bruins, led by head coach D
avid Costa, provided one of the best defensive performances of the season, keeping the clean sheet and extending their home unbeaten streak to 17.
Graduate students JP Armbruster and Nate Logan, along with seniors John Bannec, Kyle Barks, Cory Lavinder and Liam O’Brien were celebrated before kickoff in honor of one of their last performances in a Belmont shirt.
Missouri State started the game with organized shape and good possession, featuring a full international lineup with players from England, Italy and Spain.
In the 11th minute, the Bears won the ball in Belmont’s defensive third with forward Nicolò Mulatero, who played teammate Jesus Barea. The Spanish striker set up Aadne Bruseth whose left-footed effort was saved by Belmont goalkeeper Logan.
Minutes later, Belmont got its first chance of the game from a play started by Logan’s goal kick and a combination involving juniors Case Cox, Ayden Von Essen and AJ Chastonay. Chastonay, the Kentucky-native, served O’Brien in the box, but his attempt was deflected into a corner by Missouri State’s defense.
The Bruins continued to push and improved their performance in the offensive and defensive halves as Logan made multiple saves.
In the 30th minute, Jansen Wilson delivered a dangerous corner for Belmont into the Bears’ box. The ball was cleared by Missouri State’s defense just outside of the 18-yard-box where junior Michael Saunders attempted a right-footed volley just wide of the goal of Bear goalkeeper Harry Townsend.
In the next play, the Bears made themselves dangerous by cutting through the Belmont defense, but the Bruins were able to reject the attack with a double save by Logan.
The Bruin goalkeeper repeated himself in the 37th minute, saving a long-distance effort by Giacomo Sala.
Just minutes before the half, sophomore Eric Stiles played Wilson in the final third. Coming up with a solo play, Belmont’s No. 10 entered the box for the attempt, but the shot was saved by Townsend.
The second half saw both teams maintain control of the game while struggling to create goal-scoring opportunities to break the deadlock.
Wilson attempted a shot from distance shortly after kickoff, but it was saved by Townsend.
Missouri State came up with only one shot on goal out of three chances in the second 45 minutes.
Discipline and a high work rate were the key to the Bruins’ defensive performance, Bannec said.
In a game where both teams lacked the final touch to find the lead, Townsend and Logan played a key game providing confidence to their respective teams with several saves made.
“I think it shows a lot of character especially from our Senior Core, leading the group out there,” Barks said. “I think it was a good send-off for what these guys have contributed to the program over the past couple of years and overall, pleased with the effort tonight.”
Both Bannec and Barks, who transferred from Indiana University to play in Costa’s program, will leave Belmont at the end of this season.
“It was an emotional day for all of us seniors coming out and realizing that our time is coming to an end especially for a lot of us after six years in college soccer,” said Bannec. “I'm really excited for Wednesday, for next week, for closing out the MVC and going into the tournament with a mentality and knowing that hey, we can take on and beat anybody in this conference and we can fight for an NCAA tournament appearance.”
PHOTO Junior Case Cox looks to maintain the Belmont possession. Ben Burton/Belmont Vision
This article was written by Federico Pravettoni