Updated: Sep 20
The men’s soccer team made program history with four consecutive home victories, banking a 1-0 home-field win against East Tennessee University in the Bruins’ first Southern Conference game Saturday.
Coming out undefeated in its last five fixtures, most notably a 1-1 draw against No. 22 ranked rivals Lipscomb University, the Bruins are showing confidence and consistency in their season so far.
“We talk all the time about creating good habits and eliminating bad ones and the reality is winning is a habit,” said Belmont head coach David Costa. “Seeing the fruits of your labor is very important.”
Sophomore star AJ Chastonay bagged his second goal of the season to give the Bruins the lead midway through the second half. The service was provided by senior Jack Shaw, who registered his second assist of the season.
“AJ’s movement in the box is among the best of any of the players I’ve played with,” Shaw said. “He has very smart movements, so it makes my job easy.”
In the opening minutes of the game, ETSU pushed Belmont to the back of their box after a quick concession of corners. The Bruins’ defensive line didn’t let this early pressure phase them as they held their shape effectively and cleared off the aerial threats.
The first real scoring opportunity of the game came from Belmont forward Liam O’Brien in the 20th minute, forcing a superb save out of Bucs keeper Josh Perryman.
Moments later, Perryman was called back into action, making two additional saves after efforts from Bruins John Bannec and Chastonay.
It was also a busy first half for Bruin goalie Drew Romig, who maintained great composure and saved all four shots on goal over the first 45 minutes.
The opening half drew to a close with neither side being able to break the 0-0 deadlock.
To up the stakes, the Belmont team also found itself in the presence of some special visitors.
During the halftime pause, over 30 of Belmont men’s soccer alumni walked onto the field to receive a moment of recognition for their contribution to the program.
“It’s always awesome to have people reconnect to the program. We had an alum go into the Hall of Fame — Jay Ayers, on Thursday night,” said Costa.
The opening to the second half looked much like the first, with some early pressure from ETSU, but it was Belmont who struck first.
After making good use of the sidelines, the Bruins’ persistence was rewarded in the 72nd minute. Esteban Lestido played the ball out wide to Shaw, who swung the cross into the box to find Chastonay at the right spot to slot it into the net.
The Belmont defense maintained fantastic shape, holding ESTU to just three shots in the second half — all of which were met by the safe hands of Romig. The Bruin goalkeeper’s commanding performance was rewarded with a clean sheet and a career-high-tying seven saves.
Shaw expressed his excitement about kicking off conference play with a clinical victory.
“So awesome to get off the mark with a win,” said Shaw. “I think at home, we’re a very tough team to beat. We take a lot of pride in that, so we perform well and hopefully we can keep it on the road.”
With four consecutive home wins under their belt and a full week to train and recover, the Bruins will continue to test their winning habits when they play at Furman University Sep. 25.
PHOTO: SoCon Offensive Player of the Week, No. 17 Liam O’Brien, alongside the game’s sole scorer, No. 16 AJ Chastonay. Belmont Vision / Nikiah Perry
This article was written by Finn Birnie and A.J. Wuest.