NASHVILLE, Tenn.- The Belmont University men's soccer team (1-7-1, 0-1-0) fell 2-0 to conference favorite, and 2014 Horizon League Champion, Oakland (4-4-0, 1-1-0) in its 2015 Horizon League season opener Saturday afternoon at E.S. Rose Park.
"I think we defended well and I certainly think we frustrated them. We're in a learning phase; were still learning how to compete and play conference games, but we're getting there," said Head Coach Bryan Green.
The Bruins went toe to toe with a very solid Oakland team, which a year ago won a NCAA Tournament game and looks to factor in heavily in the Horizon League contender mix. Both teams battled for the duration in what was a very physical conference contest, as most Horizon League tilts this season figure to be.
The Golden Grizzlies saw Gerald Ben and Matt Dudley find the back of the net, tallying both of their scores in the second half.
After a penalty kick score by Oakland's Ben, the Bruins were forced to chase the Golden Grizzlies the remainder of the match and never could quite equalize despite many positive offensive sequences in the second half.
Oakland added some insurance with a goal in the 63rd that just eluded the outstretched hands of Grayson Rector (Peachtree City, Ga.).
Belmont never looked outmatched against an experienced and very well-balanced Oakland squad that returned seven starters from last year's Tournament team.
The Bruins had some strong chances in the second half including an opportunity in the 60th minute that was squashed by a BU foul. Rashad Hyacenth (D'Abadie, Trinidad and Tobago) had a chance as he found himself within striking distance of the goal on the left side of the pitch but was called for a foul on a challenge with an Oakland defender. Matt Lopoyda (Niagara Falls, Ont., Can.) would have had a strong look at the net but his opportunity was washed away by the infraction. The Bruins would also come close to a score in the 66th, and in the 88th when freshmen Dennis Kluba (St. Louis, Mo.) saw his shot run wide of the goal.
At the half, the Bruins and Golden Grizzlies played to a nil, nil draw as the Oakland played the role of the aggressor for most of the initial 45 minutes of play. Oakland tallied five shots including two on goal, testing Rector. Rector made a pair of nice saves in the first half, one in the 35th minute and one in the 41st, keeping the Bruins within striking distance.
Rector finished with four saves for the Bruins.
Graduate student Nick Clarke (Perryville, Md.) made his first start in a Belmont Bruin uniform, playing the entire match at defender.
Overall the Bruins seemed to look and play better as the match progressed, and many positives can be taken from the match as they battled with one of the league's best.
The Bruins return to action Wednesday, Sept. 30 when they travel to Northern Kentucky for their first conference road match of the season.