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Seniors leave it all on the pitch in home finale

The senior class for the Belmont women’s soccer team showed resiliency in its final home game at E.S Rose Park.

Facing a 3-0 deficit with less than 12 minutes remaining, seniors Allie Hicks and Taylor Smith scored within a two-minute span to give their team a chance against the University of Tennessee Martin.

The Bruins ultimately fell after Skyhawks forward Rianna Jarrett completed a hat trick to give UT Martin the 4-2 win.

“We all just knew what we wanted and we were going to do whatever it took to get it. We didn’t get the result but I’m really proud of how we fought and got two goals back,” said Hicks.

Despite the loss, Belmont coach Heather Henson believed the team never showed signs of giving up.

“The fight was there and that’s how you can come back from a 3-0 deficit and get two more goals. It’s not a technical thing sometimes,” she said. “It’s ‘How much do we want it?’ We’re going to fight to get the goals when it comes down to it.”

Early on in the first half, the Bruins appeared poised in their attack with several chances coming in the attacking third. Freshman Tara Austin received a perfectly-timed pass near the top of the box but the forward couldn’t get a clean shot.

As the first half progressed, UT Martin attempted to open up the outside flanks with several go-and-give opportunities.

A few defensive breakdowns created holes in Belmont’s shape, allowing UT Martin to thread several passes through the Bruins backline. The Skyhawks capitalized in the 20th minute when a shot bounced its way through the box and past senior keeper Megan Byrd.

Minutes later, Jarrett buried a shot past Byrd off the 1-v-1 opportunity to score her first of the night and double the lead for UT Martin.

With Belmont still looking for its first goal, freshman Belicia Mendiola freed up space for the Bruins but the forward tangled up with the Skyhawks defense and the shot was deflected.

Meg Howard attempted to get the Bruins moving on the outside and managed to get a cross to Casie Blase, but the header sailed over the crossbar.

While the Bruins maintained a 6-5 shot advantage in the first half, the Skyhawks went into halftime maintaining the 2-0 lead.

At the start of the second half, Jarrett continued to push past Belmont’s defense and picked up her second goal in the 56th minute.

However as Belmont has proved all season, the Bruins wouldn’t back down despite a huge deficit and tightened up defensively after conceiting the third goal.

“It was realizing where the attack was coming from. We knew it was coming wide and to step up higher to their outside backs to shut down them getting the ball,” Henson said. “We were sitting a little too far back and creating too much space for them. So we stepped up high and tried to press as they were getting the ball.”

On the opposite side of the pitch, Belmont finally found the back of the net in the 77th minute thanks to Hicks. The senior midfielder broke past the Skyhawks’ backline and chipped a shot over keeper Mariah Klenke to put the Bruins on the board.

“We kind of changed our form of attack. We had two sitting central and we were trying to shoot over the top,” Hicks said. “It’s a little different than we normally play but I was looking to sprint at the goal and get something on it.”

The goal from Hicks provided a spark and less than a minute later Smith ripped a shot past Klenke to cut the lead down 3-2.

However Jarrett’s third goal of the night sealed the 4-2 win for UT Martin.

It was the second comeback attempt in a row that fell short for the Bruins, days after a similar loss to Jacksonville State on Sunday.

Belmont looks to end its losing streak with a pair of tough conference road matches against Murray State and Austin Peay. The match with the Racers is set for Sunday at 1 p.m.

Photos: Andrew Hunt

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