On a blistering Sunday afternoon at Rose Park, the Belmont women’s soccer team overcame the heat to defeat in-state rival Middle Tennessee 1-0 in overtime.
Newcomer Belicia Mendiola scored the gamewinner on a penalty kick for her third goal of the season. With the win, the Bruins improved their record to 2-0 in the regular season to remain undefeated.
“The great thing is the players dealt with our road win on Friday, came home Saturday and had a late training session and were able again to bring it,” said Belmont coach Heather Henson. “Our goal is get 1 percent better each and every day. We had to do that.”
In the opening minutes of the first half, the Belmont forwards maintained pressure on MTSU’s backline in the attacking third. Sophomore Meg Howard used space to find an open Tara Austin on the wing in the fourth minute, but MTSU goalkeeper Kelsey Brouwer cleared away the attempt.
Moments later, Brouwer stepped up for the Blue Raiders again with a tip save to keep the Bruins off the scoreboard early.
Meanwhile on offense, MTSU struggled to find the attack early in the first half and instead relied heavily on the counterattack. However, the Bruins’ defense held its own and shutdown the Blue Raiders’ offense.
While the beginning of the game focused on forward attack, Belmont used multiple set pieces to open the second half. Senior defender Allison Alcott had three impressive shots off direct free kicks. However, she could not get them past Brouwer.
In the 60th minute, another Belmont free kick from Alcott found its way into the box and nearly into the net but bounced off the upper body of Austin and straight into the hands of Brouwer.
“That’s one thing that Alli Alcott has done year after year. That was one of her challenges in the offseason: Can you prepare that earlier in the season,” said Henson. “Full testament that she has worked on that in the summer and her placement is almost spot on every time.”
Less than a minute later, the Blue Raiders finally found their first shot of the game off a free kick sent wide over the crossbar. It provided a much need spark for MTSU as the Blue Raiders relied on the quick runs of junior Tori Hawkins to gain possession and send the game into overtime.
Neither team produced chances in the beginning of the first overtime period until Howard battled three-on-one to draw the foul inside the penalty area. Physical play from Howard set up the game winner for Mendiola.
“Her hustle is fantastic. Even if they would have not called it, I still think she could have scored one,” Mendiola said. “It was all just a matter of time and I felt like Meg did her job. I’m thankful that she did so good and hustled all day today. I’m proud of her.”
Belmont continues its non-conference schedule hosting new opponent Indiana State on Friday. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. at Rose Park.