• Lillie Burke

Belmont Athletics brings fall 2021 to a close, delivering hard work and hardware for a record-breaki

As Belmont enters its spring semester, some student-athletes look forward to their seasons while some reflect on the successes of the fall.

Through the struggle and stress of the student-athlete lifestyle, Belmont’s cross-country, soccer and volleyball players followed through in the university’s final Ohio Valley Conference season.

Belmont Athletics collectively gained one glorious conference win, two second-place finishes and two tournament appearances from the five teams competing in fall.

Looking back at a season of achievements, the women’s cross-country team’s Ohio Valley Conference championship title on Oct. 30 tops the chart.

Claiming their first-ever OVC win in its last race in the conference, Belmont beat runner-up Tennessee Tech University by 12 points and bronze medalists Eastern Illinois University by 24 points.

Freshmen Kaitlyn Vanderkolk and Brooke Stromsland collected All-OVC First Team honors along with sophomore Grace Litzinger, while sophomore Brooke Garter and junior Katie Flaherty clinched spots on the All-OVC Second Team.

The young team, led by assistant coach Kate Bucknam, was buoyed by Vanderkolk’s fourth-place finish in the women’s 5k, while her twin brother Kevin Vanderkolk carried the torch for the men’s team.

Crossing the line at fourth place in the men’s 8k, Kevin Vanderkolk received First Team accolades alongside senior Ben Naeger and junior Ethan Hammer. Graduate student Aidan Thompson clinched a Second Team honor.

Men’s cross-country placed second overall, only four points short of winner EIU but 49 points ahead of third-place finisher Tennessee Tech.

With a championship title and a runner-up finish in 2021-22, Director of Cross Country and Track & Field John Langdon and his teams counted their season a success, and they now look toward trading muddy, hilly outdoor courses for the indoor season’s short oval track.

Another Belmont team with a widely successful fall was men’s soccer.

Despite the tough finale loss againstMercer University in the Southern Conference championship game Nov. 14, the Bruins rewrote the history books this season.

Goalie and Southern All-Region selectee Drew Romig concluded his Belmont career by setting a record, racking up eight shutouts in 2021 — more than any other Bruin in a single season.

No. 1 Drew Romig in front of the net in the Sep. 10 Georgia State game which ended in a 2-1 home victory for Belmont. Belmont Vision / Jessica Mattsson.

No. 1 Drew Romig in front of the net in the Sep. 10 Georgia State game which ended in a 2-1 home victory for Belmont. Belmont Vision / Jessica Mattsson.

Fellow senior Niccolo Dagnoni took his place on the national stage with an average 0.58 assists per game, landing him at 8th in NCAA Division I standings.

Dagnoni now tops the program in career assists with 26, ranks second in points with 60 and is third in all-time goals with 17 over his four years at Belmont.

Joining Dagnoni with All-SoCon Team honors are senior defenders John Bannec and Jack Shaw, forward Liam O’Brien — who tied for 21st in NCAA goals this season — as well as sophomores Case Cox and AJ Chastonay.

Midfielder JP Armbruster’s dedication to his sport and his school was recognized by College Sports Information Directors of America for his contributions on the field and in the classroom. The graduate student received an Academic All-American® title.

Belmont’s David Costa was also named SonCon Co-Coach of the Year.

On the women’s side, head coach Heather Henson’s team showed up with dedication all season long, making it to the OVC tournament quarter final with an 8-8-1 record.

In that Oct. 31 match, the Bruins battled to tie the game against Southeast Missouri State University. Senior Haley Poynter found midfielder Sydney Cason in the offense who netted a sharp shot and triggered overtime play.

Despite the recovery, SEMO scored the decisive 2-1 goal. Unable to advance further in the tournament, four Belmont players still took home All-OVC honors. Freshman Allison Brockelman, sophomore Maci Pekmezian, senior Rachel Vernon and graduate student Andrea Leitner received conference accolades, with Leitner earning the OVC Goalkeeper of the Year Award.

And on the volleyball courts, senior Taylor Floyd also collected conference recognition, leading her squad to its first OVC tournament appearance in four years.

However, a first-round 3-0 loss versus Morehead State University on Nov. 18 ended the team’s season.

Head coach Katelyn Harrison’s team will now say goodbye to Floyd and fellow seniors Mary Catherine Ball, Peyton Kelley and Carly Mason, while the team says hello to six new Bruins who recently committed to the program.

But before the switch to the MVC, ten Belmont teams will compete for OVC medals in the spring.

Belmont tennis and golf played in multiple high-caliber contests this season. The men’s tennis’ performance at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Ohio Valley Regional tournament was the highlight, along with golfer Cameron Fish’s award-winning swings on the course.

As tennis and golf look forward to end-of-season conference play to wrap things up, other teams are just getting started.

Coming home to their new sports facility for fall scrimmages, Belmont softball and baseball will start hitting for real in the new year.

The baseball team will kick off 2022 play at home against the University of Toledo on Feb. 18. Softball’s schedule has not yet been released

The track and field teams will begin their indoor season Jan. 14-15 at the Commodore Challenge hosted at Vanderbilt University.

In more immediate action, women’s basketball began conference play Thursday with a 87-49 win over Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Soon to follow, men’s basketball will return to the court Saturday against Eastern Illinois University after a last-minute schedule change.

With more 2022 athletics on the horizon, fans can crank up gameday songs and come out to support the Bruins’ spring sports as Belmont looks to finish strong in OVC competition.

PHOTO: The women of Belmont cross-country making strides at the Percy Warner Park course during the Belmont Opener, Sep.3. Belmont Vision / Jessica Mattsson.

This article was written by Jessica Mattsson. Mattsson is a student-athlete on Belmont’s track and field team.

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