Belmont’s season ended with one Evansville goal.
The Aces scored in the 65th minute and never looked back, ending the Bruins’ run in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in one, swift kick.
The season’s third match between the two sides began as a replica of the first two matches, where good possession, defending with few flaws and high intensity made it difficult to find the back of the net.
History repeated itself in Missouri as the Bruins and Aces entered their locker rooms at half-time with a 0-0 score.
The tone shifted in the second half as Evansville was able to break through.
In the 65th minute, Belmont senior Kyle Barks cleared an Ace throw-in with a header outside of the eighteen.
Off the clearance, Evansville midfielder Ola Arntsen released a one-touch half-volley breaking the deadlock to give the Aces the lead.
In the next few minutes, Belmont built well in the attacking third and made itself dangerous in Evansville’s box as junior A.J. Chastonay’s attempt was deflected by Ace goalkeeper Alex Vidizzoni.
Despite needing to score a goal to force overtime, Belmont continued to play its game with confidence.
In the 77th minute, freshman defender Riley Clothier played a long ball over-the-top for junior Case Cox, who won the footrace with the Ace defender but was unable to finish due to another save by Vidizzoni.
Belmont pushed and won a corner delivered in the 81st minute by Wilson.
Sophomore Dylan Steely got a touch on the ball with his head and Chastonay was able to direct it toward the goal with a turn.
But his effort was saved fortuitously on the line by Ace midfielder Raphaello Colasito.
As the countdown toward the championship final began for Evansville in the final five minutes of the match, the Bruins were unable to find the net.
Steely was elected man of the match for the Bruins, providing consistent performance for the Bruins’ defense.
Evansville’s Arntsen was named man of the match for clinching the win for the Aces with his first goal of the season.
Belmont exits the Missouri Valley Conference tournament with many positives, hoping to return as a more experienced and competitive championship contender next season.
Case Cox, Jansen Wilson and Mikey Saunders were named to the 2022 All-MVC Second Team.
Bruin defenders Steely and Riley Clothier were named to the 2022 All-MVC Freshman Team.
With the win, the Evansville Purple Aces advance to the MVC tournament final and will face MVC regular season and defending champion Missouri State University on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Springfield, Missouri.
PHOTO: Case Cox and Dylan Steely just seconds after the final buzzer in Springfield, Missouri. Landen Secrest/ Belmont Vision
This article was written by Federico Pravettoni