NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Expect to see a fiery sense of competition when the Belmont women's soccer team makes its 2018 preseason debut during two matches this week – despite an exhibition style of play.
The Bruins will take the field for exhibition matches at Chattanooga on Thursday and at Western Kentucky on Sunday with plenty of motivation still brewing from a double-overtime elimination in the quarterfinals of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament nine months ago.
"We bring a certain level of intensity and we expect the next person on the roster to bring that same level," said senior midfielder Emily Whitcomb (Elmhurst, Ill.). "That keeps us getting better and better right from the get-go."
Both of Belmont's preseason matches this fall come on the road with statistics and results this week not counting toward season totals. The Bruins visit the Chattanooga Mocs at 5 p.m. Thursday with their matchup at Western Kentucky Hilltoppers starting at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Belmont is coming off its second straight appearance in the OVC Tournament. The 2017 edition left a bitter taste in the Bruins' collective mouth though, after playing to a scoreless draw through two overtime periods yielded a loss on penalty kicks. The Bruins wrapped the season at 10-6-4, the program's best mark in nine years.
Head coach Heather Henson, now in her eighth season at the helm, said she'll use the exhibition slate to play with lineup combinations and test her depth. That goes for every spot on the pitch from the forwards back to the goalkeepers, where junior Lily Herman (Springboro, Ohio) and sophomore Abby Hunt (Surrey, British Columbia) will split time.
Herman started throughout OVC play last season to great success, but Hunt showed promise this spring, leading Henson to keep open the keeper competition.
"It's important to see how both our goalkeepers get in there and make game-time decisions," began Henson, who is 40-53-15 in her Belmont tenure. "I'll be looking at combinations, looking at them to compete well together against outside competition and find our highest level of intensity and highest level of speed."
We had 4 – count 'em 4! – players with 4.0s for the 2017-18 school year! Congrats to OVC Academic Medal of Honor recipients Kameron Ziesig, Tara Austin, Julie Garst & Sydney Cason!#itsbruintime pic.twitter.com/ryoEfU0LLQ— Belmont Womens Soccer (@BelmontWSoccer) August 6, 2018
ABOUT THE MOCS
Chattanooga returns 15 players form last year's squad that finished 5-10-4 and sixth in the Southern Conference. That group includes Southern Conference Freshman of the Year Chloe Arnold, who led the team with seven goals in 2017, and all-conference defender Jordan Mueller.
The Mocs ranked last in their conference in offensive production a season ago, totaling just 14 goals in 19 games. Sophomore keeper Melia Correa, who started 11 matches in 2017, returns in net for Chattanooga.
The match will be played at 5 p.m. (Central Time) at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga. Live stats are not available.
ABOUT THE HILLTOPPERS
Western Kentucky returns all but two of its primary starters from 2017's 7-9-1 squad that finished ninth in the Conference-USA standings. Pacing the attack are junior forward Chandler Backes, who led WKU in scoring the past two years, and senior midfielder Nicole Roseland, a two-time all-conference player.
The Hilltoppers must replace a four-year starter at goalkeeper who helped the team to a conference-best 16 goals allowed last year. The offense only mustered 16 goals as well in those 17 matches though.
The match will be played at 6 p.m. (Central Time) at the WKU Soccer Complex in Bowling Green, Ky. Live stats will be available at http://www.sidearmstats.com/wku/wsoc.