Women’s soccer clinches late win in home opener
Kick-starting their home gameplay with a double overtime showing, Belmont women’s soccer outperformed University of Chattanooga 2-1 on Friday.
With 12 seconds left in the second overtime, sophomore forward Maci Pekmezian scored the decisive goal of the game to secure a much-needed win for the Bruins at E.S. Rose Park.
“I’m really happy. That’s like my first college goal, so it was crazy,” Pekmezian said. “We’ve been battling the past few games and it just hasn’t gone our way, so I think it’s really good for our confidence that we just got a win under our belt.”
The long-fought game offered many opportunities to score for both teams, but after an initial goal by the Mocs, the Bruins advanced to a tie and ultimately to the first victory of their regular season.
Defender Rachel Vernon was “a rock force in the back” throughout the game, said head coach Heather Henson. The coach was also happy to see Vernon’s initiatives in the offense as she assisted freshman Leah Firsdon to the Bruins’ first goal, she said.
Firsdon made her first collegiate start and scored her first collegiate goal in the 47th minute of the game. She also stood for the assist to the game-ending goal.
“That’s a great night for her as a freshman coming in,” Henson said.
The Belmont offense kept the Mocs’ goalie, Abbey Saddler, on her toes with cross balls by Hayley Poynter and scoring attempts by Anna Sweeney, but Saddler managed to keep the home team from taking the lead.
With strong performances from the Bruins’ defense, Belmont goalkeeper Sarah Doyle was not brought into action until her first save in the 11th minute. However, the Mocs kept the momentum deep in Belmont’s box to score shortly after.
During the remainder of the first half, Chattanooga calmed down while the Bruins went hunting for an equalizer.
Belmont controlled most of the ball possession at this time, but both teams managed to claim free kicks after a few fouls and corners. With a stellar performance by Doyle and fingertip saves by the Mocs goalie, UTC finished in the lead after the first half.
Coming back for the second half, the Bruins did not waste any time as Firsdon placed the ball by the left post, tying the game.
Right away, the Mocs turned up the intensity, forcing Belmont’s players back in the box.
With intentional attempts and a fair share of ball control, the Bruins pushed for a late score before the end of the second half by throwing themselves at their opponents’ goal, trying to head in a cross ball.
Although the efforts were in vain and a sudden death awaited, the support from both teams’ fans carried the players through two 10-minute overtimes.
“I want to thank the fans for coming out,” coach Henson said. “They help push us and raise us to play at a higher level.”
And it was the higher level that finally earned Belmont the win.
After Doyle saved a critical shot with one minute left, No. 2 Keely Cartrett quickly drove the ball up to the offense for a last chance to score — a ball that Pekmezian eventually secured in the back of the net.
“I think we executed our game plan pretty well,” Henson said. “I think there were some disconnects here and there but those are the risks that you have to take in transition from the defending side to the attacking side.”
With their first win of the season in the books, women’s soccer heads south to Athens, Georgia, for Sunday’s game against the University of Georgia.
“It will be a great learning experience for us, and again, I think that tonight was a great opportunity to have them realize how strong they are when they play together,” Henson said.
This article was written by Jessica Mattsson. Photo by Tyra Finkeldey.