Season preview: Belmont women’s soccer
After many long months, the Belmont women’s soccer team starts the season on Tuesday — but the road back was a long one.
Last season the Bruins had one of its most historic seasons in program history, with Belmont winning the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament as a No. 6 seed, and earning its way to the second ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
Four players on Belmont’s team earned All-OVC Tournament honors, including Tournament MVP Julie Garst. Three players also represented the Bruins for their performances throughout the entire season earning All-OVC honors, marking the sixth time in the last seven years Belmont has had at least two members named to All-OVC teams.
The Bruins were not able to pick up where they left off as regularly scheduled, after COVID-19 posed too much of a threat to a successful season in the fall. They were, however, able to practice and sufficiently acclimate the new freshman to the program and their teammates.
Now that they finally have the chance to get back on the field, head coach Heather Henson is choosing to look on the brightside.
“I think those are the big blessings that we’ve had, you know, to have those opportunities to practice and bond in the fall,” said Henson. “Just being able to be together outside and enjoy those moments has made an impact on our team.”
One of the key players doing her part to help the team acclimate is senior Julie Garst. COVID-19 has made it slightly difficult to lead the team, however, she’s made it a point to connect with the group.
“It’s definitely been difficult for us to find ways to connect but we’ve come up with different ways that are COVID-19 safe, Zoom being one of them,” said Garst.
“I think just knowing how much of a family we are, and how much having a great relationship with our teammates has helped us succeed in the past, is really helping us through it.”
Garst, one of only three seniors on this year’s roster. She led the team in goals, assists, points, shots and shots on goal in last season’s championship run. She is accompanied by fellow seniors Haley Poynter and Grace Parsons, who led the team in minutes and shot on goal percentage respectively.
Another returning key player is junior Rachel Vernon, Belmont’s defensive leader. In the 2019-20 season, she climbed to the third spot in all-time starts and notched 2,021 minutes in the single season for the second most in program history.
This season, the Bruins’ schedules will look much different than usual, as they will propel right into conference play instead of having non-conference games prior to asses and regulate team progress.
Though this season looks completely different and poses foreign challenges, Henson is just grateful that her team has the opportunity to play again.
“They’re getting to play, it’s just in a different way. Those challenges exist for all students in college now and all student athletes,” said Henson.
“We’re definitely ready to play outside competition, instead of just ourselves. And that’s the other blessing. It is almost here, so we just try to live by recognizing our blessings in the midst of these challenges.”
The lady Bruins will open its season on the road at Jacksonville State University to take on the Gamecocks on March 2. They will then return to E.S. Rose Park for the first time in over a year on March 5, in their home opener against the U.T. Martin Skyhawks.
This article written by Hanley Riggs.