Updated: Sep 20, 2022
In a storied rivalry spanning multiple seasons, the Belmont men’s soccer team took on No. 22 ranked Lipscomb University Tuesday night at the Lipscomb Soccer Complex.
In a relentless battle, the Bruins managed to stave off an aggressive Bison team to walk away with a 1-1 draw.
“It was a rivalry game, a tale of two halves. I thought we were really good in the first half,” said Belmont head coach David Costa. “Gritty performance overall to come away still with the point and to keep the trophy as well.”
In the first half, Belmont controlled the ball well and used its possession wisely. The wings were key as all the advancing movement from the Bruins was run through the sides of the pitch. The team also pressured Lipscomb’s defenders well and managed to take the ball back high up the field.
The Bruins’ aggressive offense eventually paid off when wingback Case Cox was fouled in the box while cutting in from the left, resulting in a penalty kick for Belmont.
Team captain Niccolo Dagnoni stepped up to take the penalty and drilled the ball into the top left corner, leaving the keeper with no chance to save it.
Costa had faith in his penalty taker to put Belmont in the lead. “He’s such a top player, and he wants those moments. I sat down and there’s nothing to do other than watch him do his job,” Costa said.
Minutes later, midfielder A.J. Chastonay found himself one-on-one with the Bisons’ goalkeeper but had his shot pushed wide, missing the opportunity for a two-nil lead as his angle was slowly closed off.
Belmont ended the first half as the better side. The team attempted seven shots compared to Lipscomb’s four and held its composure well.
At the start of the second half, it seemed as if Belmont was prepared to defend its lead. However, a deflected corner in the 61st minute fell to Lipscomb’s Bakary Bagayoko, who slotted the ball into the back of the net for the equalizer.
After conceding, Belmont seemed unable to gain its momentum back, and most of the second half was spent on the Bruins’ end of the pitch. Lipscomb held absolute control of possession, and very rarely did Belmont have the time to recover for a counterattack.
At the end of regulation time, the story of the second half could be told in the stat line. Lipscomb took 18 shots in the half, whereas Belmont only managed to find space to shoot a single time. Additionally, the Bisons won 10 corner kicks, forcing the Bruins to defend throughout the half.
Costa acknowledged his opponent’s performance in the tail end of the match.
“They were fantastic in the second half, pressed us really effectively, and I don’t think we dealt with it well,” Costa said. “Our movement up front wasn’t as good, and I think they just got so many numbers forward, and we had trouble getting out of our half.”
In the two overtime periods, Belmont managed to find some nice counter-attacking opportunities but fell short in front of the goal. Meanwhile, Lipscomb continued to apply pressure, challenging the Bruins with six more shots.
Despite the endless attacks from Lipscomb’s offense, goalkeeper Drew Romig and his backline did well to secure the draw, ensuring that the team did not concede a second time to lose the match. Romig had six crucial saves in the second-half onslaught, and his defenders managed to block and deflect balls away from the net on several occasions.
In the last seconds of the double overtime, there was some late drama. Lipscomb set up to score, but the official narrowly called off a last-second goal as time ran out before the shot was taken. Celebrations from the Bisons quickly turned to disappointment, and Belmont escaped with a draw and the rivalry trophy.
Costa said his team persevered well. “The guys did a good job of fighting to win some key moments,” he said.
After two tiring overtime games in five days, Costa said he will look toward recovery more than training as his team prepares for its next game, making sure every player is fit enough to face the next opponent.
The Bruins now move on to begin conference play Saturday against East Tennessee State University at E.S. Rose Park.
— Photo: Sophomore AJ Chastonay on the pitch during the Battle of the Boulevard on Tuesday, Sept. 14 in Nashville, Tennessee. Belmont Vision / David Pang
This article was written by David Pang