CHARLESTON, Ill. – For the second straight year, heartbreak came for the Belmont women's soccer team in the form of Southeast Missouri penalty kicks.
The Bruins' 2018 season came to an end Friday in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament following a 0-0 draw through regulation time and two hard-fought overtime periods. With the game in shootout mode and the season hanging in the balance, SEMO came up with one too many makes to advance, 4-3 in PKs.
It was the same outcome Belmont experienced during last season's OVC quarterfinals, which was also scoreless before heading to penalty kicks.
"They played their hearts out today and I am so proud of this team," said Belmont Head Coach Heather Henson. "I am blessed to have these ladies and staff in my life. As a family we see good and bad moments, but we are always there for each other."
The Bruins out-shot their opponents for the ninth time on the season, leading the Redhawks (5-8-4) in shot attempts 19-17. That included an impressive flurry in the first 10-minute OT period when Belmont fired six shots to SEMO's zero.
Heavy rains earlier in the day made for a sloppy and slow field that bogged down both teams' offenses. The day seemed destined for extra time from the beginning.
Yet the match would never have reached penalty kicks or even overtime if not for the heroic effort of Belmont junior goalkeeper Lily Herman (Springboro, Ohio) in the net. She made eight saves, one shy of her career high, and neutralized countless other threats with heady play in the box. Most notably though was her save on a penalty shot in the 54th minute that would have given SEMO the lead.
Herman ranged to her right to block a rocket from Esmie Gonzales, SEMO's leading scorer. The moment proved to be a preview of the coming penalty kicks.
"It's the conference tournament and obviously you can't tie, so all week we had been preparing for PKs," said Herman, who notched her fourth shutout of the season Friday. "Credit to Val (Assistant Coach Valerie Tysinger). She gave us so much training to get the goalkeepers ready. I just relied on my gut and my experience training with Val."
Sophomore forward Julie Garst (Franklin, Tenn.) led the attack with four shots. That gives her 68 on the season, the second most by a Belmont player in program history.
Belmont concludes its season with a 6-8-3 record and its third straight berth in the OVC Tournament. That's a first for the program, which has four tourney appearances overall, since joining the OVC in 2012.
"We've been making huge strides as a program and it's amazing that we've been doing consistently well and getting to the tournament," Herman said. "We're already looking forward to next year. It's really far away, but I think we're excited for what's to come."
Belmont will lose six seniors to graduation next spring: midfielder/defender Karen Baker (Midland, Mich.), midfielder Jessi Boozer (Brentwood, Tenn.), defender Sarah Bossung (Nashville, Tenn.), midfielder Megan Michela (Carol Stream, Ill.), forward Allie Svoboda (Lisle, Ill.) and midfielder Emily Whitcomb (Elmhurst, Ill.).