Updated: Sep 20, 2022
After stunning No. 1 Furman University by a score of 3-1 last weekend, the men’s soccer team shifted their attention towards the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with the hope of bringing the Southern Conference championship title to Nashville.
The Bruins lost to UNC Greensboro 0-1.
Early in the first half, Belmont was faced with several shots, requiring focus from goalkeeper Drew Romig and his backline. A diving save by Romig ensured that the Bruins didn’t concede in the early minutes of the match.
Although taking the brunt of UNCG’s offensive play, Belmont remained confident in their defensive play. Matching the Spartans’ energy, the Bruins attacked the ball well and kept pace with their opponents to keep the game leveled.
Offensively, Belmont struggled to find chances despite good play in the midfield. They moved the ball efficiently but could not find enough room to create any threatening plays.
By the end of the half, the Spartans had outshot the Bruins 8-5. However, Belmont managed to hold UNCG to only one shot on goal, a testament to their defensive efforts.
UNCG came out with the same offensive pressure at the start of the second half and the Bruins were again on their heels, required to handle the attacking pace of the Spartans.
Although consistent in defense, Belmont struggled to find openings in the final third of the field.
Attempting to shift towards a more goal-oriented mindset, the Bruins built their counter-attacks from the backline. This strategy proved more efficient deeper into the half as Belmont controlled its possession better, challenging the Spartans.
Despite Belmont’s efforts, UNCG managed to take the lead late in the 80th minute. A dribbling effort from forward Mani Austmann opened up enough space for him to strike the ball across goal and into the bottom right corner of the net.
The late goal proved devastating, leaving the Bruins desperate for a chance to draw before the impending final whistle. Belmont fought hard in the final minutes of the game but was unable to find a late equalizer.
Belmont coach David Costa did not think that much separated the two teams besides the goal.
“Congratulations to UNCG on winning the match. This was a very evenly played game that came down to who would make a play in front of goal. They took their chance well and were able to close out the match,” he said.
Even though the Bruins returned home empty-handed, Coach Costa is satisfied with his team’s development and accomplishments.
“I am incredibly proud of our team and staff,” Costa said. “They worked selflessly for each other all year and improved tremendously throughout the spring.”
Costa has a lot to be proud of in his second year as head coach, leading the Belmont program to new heights as the championship game marks the first conference final appearance for men’s soccer.
On top of Costa’s own accomplishments this season, he successfully coached seven players to postseason accolades with five players recognized on the All SoCon Second Team, and two players honored to the SoCon All-Freshman Team.
Among the players to get all-second team honors were Belmont lead scorer AJ Chastonay, captain Niccolo Dagnoni, forward Liam O’Brien, goalkeeper Drew Romig and defensive winger Jack Shaw.
Michael Saunders and Eric Stiles turned enough heads in their debut seasons to get onto the SoCon’s all-freshman team.
Coach Costa’s team was projected to finish sixth this season. Nonetheless, his group proved the preseason polls wrong by clinching playoffs and advancing deep into the postseason.
“Playing for a championship is a new experience for Belmont men’s soccer, and we will use this experience to grow and drive us forward as a program,” he said.
This article was written by David Pang. Photo by Tyra Finkeldey.