JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – Opponents have learned not to leave Julie Garst open, but the diminutive Belmont women's soccer forward doesn't need much space to score.
Garst gashed the Jacksonville State defense for the game-winning goal Friday and goal keeper Lily Herman made the score stand up as the Bruins prevailed 1-0 in Ohio Valley Conference play. The win stopped a two-game skid for Belmont, which improved to 3-2-1 in OVC games, 5-5-2 overall.
The sophomore Garst (Franklin, Tenn.) picked off a JSU pass and danced through a slew of defenders all the way from midfield. She finished with a flurry to put Belmont on the board in the 48th minute for her team-leading fifth goal of the season.
"The field just felt bigger tonight," said Garst, who's goal ended Belmont's longest scoring drought of the season. "I felt like we had a lot of space and whenever I was able to pass a girl, the goal looked wide open."
The Bruins took advantage of the Gamecocks (3-8-2, 1-4 OVC) in the second half after Jacksonville State controlled play in the first. JSU out-shot Belmont 9-4 in the opening 45 minutes, but the Bruins fired 12 shots after intermission to out-shoot the home team 16-15 for the game.
"I could tell their back line was getting tired as the game was going along," Garst said. "As we kept getting opportunities, they would slow up the more we came at them."
On the other end, Herman (Sprinboro, Ohio) stopped every JSU advance for her third shutout of the season. She made six saves, her second most in a single game this season.
The win points Belmont back in a positive direction. Rebounding was as much about fixing mental mistakes as physical ones and persevering when shots weren't connecting.
"In the beginning of the season we would come to road blocks and we didn't know how to fix the problem, would keep trying the same thing over and over and over again," Herman said. "As the season's gone on, we've grown and learned to really communicate and solve problems."
Belmont will aim to start a new winning streak Sunday when the Bruins host Eastern Kentucky in further OVC play. The Colonels come to E.S. Rose Park in Nashville for a 2 p.m. start on senior day.