NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With a schedule in flux, flexibility has been the word of the week for the Belmont women's soccer team.
A rainout over the weekend and the prospect of five games in the next 10 days has the Bruins focused on adapting this week. The stretch begins with a long road trip to Eastern Illinois on Friday followed by a home date against SIUE on Sunday. Friday's game will kick off at 3 p.m. with Sunday's start time set for 2 p.m. back at E.S. Rose Park in Nashville.
Belmont will follow up its full weekend slate with a game at Tennessee Tech next Tuesday after heavy rains in the area washed out the originally scheduled contest last week.
With many moving parts on the horizon as the make-up date was being finalized, Belmont Head Coach Heather Henson praised her players and coaches for their daily focus.
"They've done a really great job coming out to training and being extremely resilient and flexible and patient," Henson said. "As we've started training each day, they've come out focused on the elements we've brought to them that day."
Among the elements this week are those designed to spark improvements on the attacking end and help the Bruins (3-3-2, 1-0-1 OVC) boost their scoring output. Belmont ranks third in the Ohio Valley Conference in shots per game at 15.1 but would like to improve on its 1.25 goals per game.
To do that and capture some crucial wins in OVC play this weekend, the Bruins can't let their upcoming slog distract from the challenge at hand.
"As a staff and in training, our focus is on the next game, but being aware of the next two weeks and how to prepare us mentally, physically, spiritually," Henson said. "We'll have to balance training and recovery to make sure we keep their legs ready to go."
Belmont has gone unbeaten in its past five games entering the EIU matchup, posting a 3-0-2 mark in that stretch.
Belmont has won its past four meetings with Eastern Illinois and leads the all-time series with the Panthers, 5-3. The Bruins have also won the last two matchups at Charleston, Ill., including a 1-0 win in 2016.
SIUE holds the slight edge all-time against the Bruins with a 3-2-1 advantage. SIUE won the last matchup in 2017, but Belmont won 1-0 in overtime the last time the team's played in Nashville in 2016.
SCOUTING THE PANTHERS
Eastern Illinois (3-5-3, 2-1-1 OVC) is among the lowest scoring teams in the OVC this year and averages just 0.82 goals per game, 0.75 in conference games. A strong 0.47 GAA in OVC play has EIU off to a hot, start second in the OVC standings.
Junior goal keeper Sara Teteak has been the key for the Panthers. She has five shutouts on the season, a 1.06 GAA and a .804 save percentage. The scoring has come by committee, with junior Lexi Ketterhagen, junior Sarah DeWolf and sophomore Haylee Renick tied for the team lead with two goals each.
SCOUTING THE COUGARS
SIUE (4-5-0, 3-1-0 OVC) entered the week as the early leader in the OVC with nine points in conference play. The surge has come behind a hot-shooting offense that leads the league in shots taken during OVC games (18.5 spg).
Freshman Amanda DiNardo leads the team with three goals and sophomore Allison Wendt and junior Courtney Benning each have three assists apiece. Sophomore Jensen Schoch is the primary goal keeper, posting a 1.79 GAA and a .750 save percentage.
Belmont head coach Heather Henson made history with last week's 1-0 win over Morehead State. Henson now owns the program record for career wins with 53, passing Lisa Howe (2005-10). She has compiled a 53-62-19 record during her eight-year tenure with the Bruins.
The STREAK CONTINUES
The Bruins have not lost in their last five outings, the longest active unbeaten streak in the OVC. The 3-0-2 stretch follows Belmont's 0-3 start to the season in which the team allowed 12 goals. Belmont has surrendered just three goals since and has allowed four overall in their past six games.
SHOOTING UP THE RANKINGS
Sophomore forward Julie Garst ranks 17th in the NCAA with 4.38 shots per game. She is second in the OVC in both shots per game as well as total shots (35).
SPREAD THE WEALTH
Eight Bruins have combined to score Belmont's 10 goals this season with Garst the only player with more than one. Her first career game-winning goal (vs. Morehead State), upped her total to three goals this season.
STRONG START TO CONFERENCE
Belmont's 1-0-1 mark in OVC games is its best start to conference play since joining the league for the 2012 season. The Bruins' best previous mark through two games was a pair of draws in 2014.
HERMAN'S HOT HANDS
Junior goalkeeper Lily Herman stopped three shots to shut out Morehead State in a 1-0 win and earn her second clean sheet of the season last week. Herman now has seven career shutouts, the sixth most in program history.