NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Freshman Emily Nguyen couldn't have picked a better moment to score her first career goal.
Nguyen (Monument, Colo.) sent the Belmont women's soccer team to victory Thursday at E.S. Rose Park when her header found the back of the net in double overtime. The goal exercised some demons for the Bruins and closed their 2018 regular season with a 2-1 win over Southeast Missouri.
Belmont improves to 6-8-2 with a 4-5-1 mark in Ohio Valley Conference matches with no more games to play. With 13 points in the league standings, the team's postseason fate remains somewhat up in the air. The win goes a long way to improving their OVC Tournament odds, while a loss would have all but eliminated BU from tournament contention.
"We've worked so hard all season for this," said sophomore Julie Garst (Franklin, Tenn.), who sent the game to overtime with a goal late in regulation. "We knew a finish like this was coming. We needed it and we got it."
But it was looking like more heartbreak for the Bruins at the hands of SEMO late in the Thursday's contest. The Redhawks, who eliminated Belmont in penalty kicks during last year's postseason tournament on the very same pitch, led 1-0 on a goal moments before halftime.
As she has so many times this season, Garst played the heroine. From the right side, the forward sent a ball to the far post to knot the score 1-1 in the 79th minute. Sophomore Grace Parsons (Brentwood, Tenn.) had played the ball in with junior Kameron Ziesig (Brentwood, Tenn.) providing the final touch.
Neither team could break through in the first overtime period, but Belmont wasted no time mounting an attack in the second. Just 55 seconds into the final period, Garst carried the ball down into the left corner. Wary of the Bruins' leading scorer – Garst now has seven goals on the season – the SEMO defense followed. Garst crossed the ball into the box where freshman forward Gentry Davis (Spring Hill, Tenn.) flicked it up toward the far post.
All Nguyen had to do was put a clean head on it. Belmont has now won twice on double-overtime goals this season.
"I've been working so hard to final get one," said Nguyen of chasing her first career goal. "After it went it, I saw everyone just so excited, jumping in the air and charging me. I got demolished in the huddle with everyone hugging me and congratulating me. It was such an awesome experience."
Belmont hopes that feeling holds throughout the weekend. The Bruins momentarily sit in a tie for third in the OVC standings, but every team in the conference plays at least once this weekend with most playing twice. With just three points separating team Nos. 3 through 5, the Bruins won't know their postseason fate until the rest of the conference finishes its regular season Sunday night. Only then will the eight-team OVC Tournament field will be finalized.
"The resilience of this team – to watch them in this game not give up, fight all the way to the end and just make it happen, it's a testament to them playing together as one team and one big family," said Belmont Head Coach Heather Henson. "I'm so proud of them."
Belmont has made the past two OVC Tournaments, but has not reached three straight tourneys in program history.