NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After making an unprecedented third straight appearance in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament in October, the Belmont women's soccer team was itching to return to the pitch for this spring's exhibition slate. The Bruins recently completed a short five-game spring schedule in preparation for next fall.
More than wins and losses, the spring calendar is about getting a head start on team chemistry for the following season, said Belmont Head Coach Heather Henson. With six seniors gone due to graduation, the Bruins spent March and April working on that connection so they can hit the turf running come August.
"We learned how much more technical we can be," Henson said. "We learned how much faster we can play. We've learned we have a more solid system of attack. It doesn't mean it's all perfect, but we came out feeling very positive."
Though a handful of players are exiting the program this offseason, Belmont did pick up a reinforcement in the form of Sydney Cason (Hendersonville, Tenn.). Cason, an all-OVC selection as a freshman in 2017, missed all of last season after an injury during the team's first preseason exhibition game of 2018.
Cason found the back of the net during the brief spring season as she shook off the rust from her redshirt year.
"Adding Syd back in, she really got to link with the entire team and especially our freshmen from last year, because she only had the preseason with them," Henson said. "Adding her back in, she found her rhythm again and added an extra energy."
Cason will reunite with two-time all-OVC selection and rising junior Julie Garst (Franklin, Tenn.) in Belmont's attacking zone next fall. Both players scored this spring, as did rising junior Paige Hewitt (Knoxville, Tenn.) and rising sophomore Kayla Monis (Naperville, Ill.).
But Belmont spent as much time game-planning to cut down on goals as scoring them this spring. The Bruins put an emphasis on cleaning up their transition defense, the phase in which the team moves back on defense after an attacking possession.
"We realized how much quicker, how much more organized and efficient we can be in our transition to defending," Henson explained. "We saw improvement there throughout the spring, but especially in our final game."
With the end of Belmont's spring semester nearing, the Bruins will break for the summer and return for preseason camp in early August. Belmont's push for a fourth straight trip to the postseason will begin shortly thereafter.