SKYHAWKS' STRONG DEFENSIVE EFFORT FALLS SHORT AT BELMONT
October 7, 2016
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On a windy night in the Music City, the University of Tennessee at Martin soccer team was unable to overcome a first half goal as they fell to Belmont 1-0.
For UT Martin (3-10, 0-5 OVC), the loss marks the fourth straight one goal decision that has gone against them. Possession was the key early as the Bruins were able to mount a few chances in the first 15 minutes. The Skyhawk back line led by Rebecca Starnes and Alexius Thomas were up to the task keeping pressure off their goalkeeper and keeping Belmont (4-6-3, 3-2 OVC) from getting any clean looks on net.
However when goalkeeper MaKenzie Crawford was called upon, she was up to the challenge most all night. The sophomore from O’Fallon, Mo. turned away several Bruin chances and used her aggressive style to force Belmont into early mistakes and bad shot attempts.
In the 26th minute, the Skyhawks again suffered from some misfortune as a shot attempt from Bruin midfielder Karen Baker caromed off the left post and across the line to put the Bruins on top 1-0. The goal came off a cross as UT Martin defenders scrambled to clear the ball but were unable to relieve the pressure. The Skyhawks responded by pushing the ball deep into the Belmont end as Shannon Grattan and Saphyra Coombs-James each took shots at Bruin goalkeeper Stephanie Bukovec before the first period came to an end but were unable to find the mark.
The wind gusts really picked up in the second half which was dominated by defensive play and outstanding goalkeeping. A Grattan free kick in the 46th minute from 25 yards out was perhaps the best chance on the night for the Skyhawks as the strike was marked for the top left corner before Bukovec made a jumping save.
The Bruin keeper was not the only one with huge stops in the second half as Crawford notched two huge saves on Belmont forwards that were able to break through the Skyhawk defense. Her aggressive play kept the Bruins off the board and gave UT Martin a chance to find the equalizer. Ultimately, the Skyhawks were unable to find the tying goal as Belmont held on for the 1-0 win. Crawford stopped seven of eight shots she faced including an incredible sliding save as she was one-on-one with a Bruin forward in the final minute.Grattan and Coombs-James paced the Skyhawks offensively as each finished the match with three shots.
UT Martin returns to action as they travel to Jacksonville State this Sunday, Oct. 9. The contest is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.