CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – If the opening six games of Belmont's women's soccer schedule were like homework, what comes next is the first test. The Bruins begin Ohio Valley Conference play this week with a trip to Austin Peay.
Belmont's first of 10 conference games, the ones that will determine its postseason fate over the next six weeks, begins Friday at 6 p.m. against the Governors (5-2). The Bruins posted a 2-3-1 record in nonconference tuneups in the early portion of the schedule.
"Nonconference games are preparation for conference season and that's a learning opportunity," said Belmont Head Coach Heather Henson, who will break the program's record for career wins with her next W. "The learning doesn't ever stop, but we're happy with the progress they've made and where they're at right now."
The Bruins have been hot as of late following a rather cool start to the season about a month ago. They learned from their mistakes over three unsuccessful outings to start the campaign and have posted a 2-0-1 record in the past three games. That three-game unbeaten stretch is also the longest such active streak among OVC.
"I think despite our slow start, we came together as a team and regrouped," began junior goalkeeper Lily Herman (Springboro, Ohio), who posted her first shutout of the season this past week against Valparaiso.
"We realized we needed to get our mind right, we needed to get our bodies right. Coach Travis (Fravel) told us, at first you might lose by a lot, you're going to lose by a little, but then you're going to win by a little and then win by a lot. We're climbing up the ladder."
The Bruins have checked off winning by a little, their stellar defense limiting opposing teams to no more than a single goal in each of the past four games. Both recent wins came in the one-goal variety, including a 2-1 double-overtime thriller against LIU Brooklyn two weeks ago.
It was the first of back-to-back OT games for Belmont. The fire of overtime competition can be like bottling a single serving of the energy that emanates from the entire conference slate.
"I think our overtime games have helped them realize that intensity," Henson said. "We've had a couple overtime games that have given us the opportunity to feel that and be able to know how they'll react in those kinds of situations."
The game with the Govs, who are led by junior goalkeeper Mary Parker Powell (three shutouts) and the scoring of midfielders Morgan Drawdy and Claire Larose (three goals apiece), will not be available for live video streaming. Live stats can be found below and in-game updates will be provided through the official Belmont women's soccer twitter account @BelmontWSoccer.
Head coach Heather Henson is on the verge of history. With her next victory – career win No. 53 – Henson will pass Lisa Howe (2005-10) for most wins in program history. She tied the mark with her 52nd win in Sunday's 1-0 victory over Valparaiso.
Henson is just the second coach in Belmont women's soccer history to reach 50 career wins. She has compiled a 52-62-18 record during her eight-year tenure with the Bruins.
HERMAN'S HOT HANDS
Junior goalkeeper Lily Herman stopped seven shots to shut out Valparaiso in a 1-0 win and earn her first clean sheet of the season. Herman now has six career shutouts, moving her into sole possession of sixth place in the program's all-time record book.
In just her sixth game as a Bruin, freshman Gentry Davis scored her first career goal when she converted on a penalty shot vs. Valparaiso. The score proved to be the game-winning goal in the 1-0 victory.
Sophomore Julie Garst continues to pepper the net with shots. She as taken at least six shots in each of the past three games and her 27 shot attempts this season rank second in the OVC and first on Belmont.
Belmont's matchup against Valparaiso turned into its most physical game of the season. The 1-0 Bruins win featured 32 fouls between the two teams and a yellow card on each side. Belmont's 19 fouls is a single-game high in the OVC this year and the program's most since also committing 19 fouls on Aug. 19, 2012, at Toledo.
The anchor of Belmont's defense, Sarah Bossung made her 43th consecutive start against LIU Brooklyn. She has started each game dating back to the beginning of her sophomore year and has 54 starts overall under her belt.