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Women’s Soccer Drops Exhibition Match Against Cleveland State

Updated: Sep 7, 2023


Junior Leah Firsdon moves the ball upfield, Austin Kruljac.


Belmont University’s women’s soccer fell 2-1 to Cleveland State University in a non-conference match Friday night in the teams’ first meeting in their respective program histories.

The teams matched up well, both coming off 2-0 losses and at nearly identical records: Belmont sporting a slightly better 1-2-1 compared to Cleveland State’s 1-3.

Though pressured early by the Vikings’ fast paced and feisty approach, Belmont managed to methodically push back against their speedy opponents.

Pressing the opposing goal with two corner kicks within minutes, senior Bruin Maci Pezmekian controlled a pass from midfielder Avery Nowak, burying it in the bottom left corner in the 13th minute.

The Vikings played cautiously following the goal, but quickly resumed their approach to try and overwhelm the Belmont defense with quick solo breakaways, speedy throw-ins, and aggressive ball control.

They were able to break through the Bruins defense in the 22nd minute, when Cleveland State sophomore midfielder Mayra Sesmas tied the game with a hard shot off her left foot.

Belmont found themselves with a scoring opportunity again, taking back-to-back corner kicks, but failed to find the net to re-take the lead.

Though the offense was slow, the Bruin defense worked cohesively to keep Cleveland State’s active offense at bay.

Both teams started becoming more aggressive in the final 10 minutes of the half, meaning quick turnovers on both sides of the ball and neither team gaining an advantage at the end of the half.

Though tied, Belmont head coach Kelsey Cameron was disappointed with the Bruins’ slow start.

“I thought we had an honestly terrible first half,” she said. “We just weren’t fighting, and they outworked us.”

Coming into the second half, Cameron made a major change to the gameplan by changing schemes, switching from a defensive approach to an offensive one.

Coming out of the half with possession, Belmont quickly pressured the opposing net but was turned around after a powerful punt by Viking goalkeeper Liv Fain.

With the Bruins pushed suddenly back on defense, Cleveland State forward Erica Leinweber found a hole in the Belmont backfield, burying a shot into the top right corner to give the Vikings the lead, 2-1.

Now in a deficit, the Bruins put their offensive mindset to work and began attacks on the Viking net, aided by their defenders’ strong upfield passes.

However, besides freshman Anna Samuel’s shot grazing the crossbar in the 63rd minute, they were not able to break around Cleveland State’s now fuller defensive front.

While both teams moved the ball efficiently to their opponent’s backfield, they struggled to finish their offensive movements.

Senior Viking Kathryn Ramicone missed a free kick just after a Belmont hand ball in the 80th minute, and Bruin forward Leah Firsdon lost control of a breakaway in the 81st.

Belmont’s last assault on the Vikings ended with a strong pass from Firsdon but an off-target header by Pezmekian with ten seconds left sealed the 2-1 loss for the Bruins.

After Friday’s six saves, the 2022 Missouri Valley Conference third-team honoree goalkeeper Sarah Doyle ranks first in the conference with 26 on the season.

Previous third-team honoree Pezmekian became the fourth Bruin to score a goal this season.

Though failing to score in the second half, Cameron seemed more impressed with the offensive performance and response.

“I thought we put them under some more pressure and created a lot more chances at the end,” she said.

While frustrating that Belmont missed some opportunities early on, Cameron said she believes that the game was still valuable for her team in the future.

“Obviously getting a win would have been important, for sure,” she said. “But it’s more about preparation and growth.”

The team will look to learn from this loss when it embarks on a three-game road trip to Western Kentucky University, the University of Kentucky and the University of Chattanooga before returning to Rose Park against Indiana State University on Sept. 17 at 2 p.m.

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This article was written by Matthew Sinofsky

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