Women’s soccer fighting for ASUN Tournament bid in contest at EKU

Women’s soccer fighting for ASUN Tournament bid in contest at EKU

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Bellarmine University women’s soccer team will conclude the regular season at 1 p.m. (ET) Saturday as the Knights will make the in-state trip from Louisville to Richmond to take on Eastern Kentucky in ASUN action.

Bellarmine (3-6-7, 1-5-2 ASUN) and Eastern Kentucky (8-8, 4-4) are both new to the ASUN, with the Knights competing in their second year in the league while the Colonels are in their first season in the conference.

PLAYOFF PICTURE

Bellarmine enters the weekend with hopes of extending its season. The top 3 teams from the East and the West based on points earned in divisional play receive automatic bids to the ASUN Tournament. The crossover games (East vs. West) factor into the determination of the seventh and eighth seeds.

Central Arkansas, Lipscomb and Eastern Kentucky have clinched the West’s three automatic berths. Ironically, no team from the East has secured a bid. Bellarmine sits alone in fourth in the West with two points.

“That’s definitely the approach we are taking in training this week,” Knights Coach Chris Tinius said of fighting to keep the season alive. “Depending on what happens on Friday night, we’ll understand the piece of exactly what we need to do. Then we will need some help on the other side as well. That’s the position we’ve put ourselves in, but all we can control is on our own game.”

LAST TIME OUT

Facing Central Arkansas on Sunday, Bellarmine commanded most of the play against the ASUN West leader, but Emma Hawkins, the league’s leading scorer, managed to deliver the contest’s only goal, finding the net in overtime of a 1-0 win.

Bellarmine had a 15-5 advantage in shots and was perhaps inches away from scoring twice in the opening 10 minutes. The Knights limited the ASUN’s most potent offense to a mere one shot in the second half.

“I thought Sunday was our best overall performance of the season,” Tinius said. “We frustrated and stifled a high-powered attack. We created a lot of opportunities for ourselves. We keep saying it, but it comes down to winning individual moments and battles. The good news is that we are ahead of the curve in figuring out how to create those moments at this level. The bad news is that can make it more frustrating when you aren’t quite figuring out how to navigate them, but in reality it takes time and there is no magic formula for speeding up that process. 

“It will happen when it happens. Central Arkansas is a good example. They went through that in conference play the last couple of years, and this year it has clicked for them. They didn’t play their best game on Sunday, but arguably the best player in the conference used her experience and made a play to win the game.”

ABOUT EKU

Eastern Kentucky is 3-1 in the division and made a statement in its first season in the ASUN by wrapping up a tournament berth with one game still left.

The Colonels’ 2-1 victory over Lipscomb was a signature win, as the Bisons were the preseason favorite to capture the division. EKU is coming off a 2-0 triumph over Jacksonville State.

Audrey Anderson leads the team in goals with five while Michaela Iacono has pocketed five assists for the Colonels, who have averaged 2 goals per game against West opponents and will not lack for motivation against the Knights.

“EKU will be a stern test for sure,” Tinius said. “Matt (Cosinuke) has a done very good job with that group. They are solid all over the field without a clear area that you feel like you might be able to exploit. They are good on set pieces. On top of everything else, they are playing for a chance at a divisional championship depending on what happens in the Lipscomb/Central Arkansas game. I expect to face a motivated and hungry team.”

PROGRESS REPORT

Bellarmine is 0-1-2 in its last three games, but it’s not hard to make the case the Knights easily could have been 3-0.

Not only did they have quality looks in the aforementioned Central Arkansas game, they outshot Jacksonville State 16-3 in a 1-1 tie and had some uncharacteristic miscues in failing to hold a 2-0 lead in an eventual 2-2 deadlock against North Alabama. The play has been solid — and, for Tinius, the same could be said of Bellarmine’s output overall in ASUN action.

“I’ve been really proud of our performances, honestly since the Florida Gulf Coast game (second ASUN game),” Tinius said. “I think we felt a little sorry for ourselves in the second half against UK (in a 4-0 loss) and that carried over a bit to the Stetson game (1-0 loss in ASUN opener). After that, we went through a four-game stretch where I thought we played well for long periods against difficult opponents that eventually wore us down, but we were still able to find a win against Jacksonville in the middle of that. 

“From a big-picture perspective, we’ve played our best consecutive stretch as a Division-I program the last three games. If we win a few more little moments, we could be playing for a share of a divisional title ourselves on Saturday. That’s how thin the margin is. We’re learning, but we’re headed in the right direction and I’m proud of our group for that.”

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