GREENSBORO, N.C. – The No. 6 seed Belmont Bruins shut out the third-seeded ETSU Buccaneers 2-0 in the Southern Conference Championship quarterfinals Friday at UNCG Soccer Stadium. With the victory, the Bruins advance to the semifinals of the conference tournament for the first time since joining as a SoCon affiliate last year.
Friday's clean sheet came as one of Belmont's most prevalent wins in the last decade, joining the likes of its Sept. 29, 2011 victory over the nationally-ranked Buccaneers at home.
Junior midfielder Jack Shaw struck first for the Bruins in the 16th minute on an assist from junior forward Jordan Dozzi and sophomore forward Niccolo Dagnoni, as Dagnoni sealed the quarterfinals win with an 83rd-minute penalty kick goal.
Sophomore goalkeeper Cameron Petty notched his second-consecutive clean sheet with a total of three saves in the win.
The match got off to a choppy start, with three fouls and two offsides calls within the first 12 minutes. However, Shaw got Belmont back on track in the 16th minute with a pass from Dozzi across the box to gift the Bruins a 1-0 advantage.
The Bruins nearly doubled their lead just 14 minutes later from the boot of junior midfielder Esteban Lestido, who tallied two shots in 10 seconds, but was unable to connect.
Dozzi rounded out Belmont's first half with his first shot on goal of the game on a header at the top of the box. The Bruins entered halftime with a 1-0 lead, as they outshot ETSU 6-4 and held a 2-1 advantage in the corner kick column.
The Buccaneers came out firing in the second half, as they recorded three shots in the first 11 minutes out of the break. None of the attempts would find the back of the net, as Petty was only forced to make one save in the barrage.
Sophomore forward Liam O'Brien presented a chance to score on a Belmont corner kick in the 69th minute, but it fell just wide of the post to keep the Bruin lead at 1-0.
Belmont went on to put the match on ice, as Dagnoni drew a foul in the box in the 83rd-minute, which resulted in his second penalty kick of the season. Dagnoni slotted the ball in the bottom-left corner to beat the keeper and double the Bruins' lead to 2-0.
The Belmont defenders staved off ETSU for the remaining minutes to register their fourth clean sheet of the 2019 season.
In total, the Bruins were outshot by the Buccaneers 13-11, but doubled their shots on goal (6). Shaw's 16th-minute came as his third-career goal at Belmont, as Dozzi bumped his point total to 10 with the service.
MILESTONES FOR CHICCO: With a goal, an assist, and a shot in Friday's victory, Dagnoni is now tied for the eighth-most goals (8) and the fourth-most shots (49) in a season in program history. He now also holds a tie for the third-highest point total in a season (22), the fifth-most assists (6) and the seventh-most career assists (10) in Bruins men's soccer history.
KICKING IT UP A NOTCH: The Bruins have yet to allow a goal in the 2019 SoCon Championship, as they have beaten their opponents by a combined 6-0 margin this postseason. Belmont has now won three postseason games in the last two years.
UP NEXT: The Bruins stay in Greensboro for a semifinals matchup with the No. 2 seed UNCG Greensboro Spartans on Sunday. Kickoff is slated for 5 p.m. CT at UNCG Soccer Stadium.
David Costa, head coach
"We are extremely pleased with the team performance today. This group of players has shown tremendous resilience and grown in every match. We will enjoy this day and turn our attention to UNC Greensboro on Sunday."
Sam Borgel, senior midfielder/defender
"Leading up to the match we worked really hard and figured out what we needed to do. We played those guys (ETSU) about a week ago and we knew where to exploit them and ended up with two great goals. It is the best feeling in the world. Our guys are great, and I am looking forward to the match on Sunday."