Men’s soccer Midseason Report: Belmont on top of the Southern Conference table
Sports

Men’s soccer Midseason Report: Belmont on top of the Southern Conference table

In a year surrounded by uncertainty, the men’s soccer team plays like every day might be their last.

Coach David Costa and his team have won five games this season and recorded one draw, the Bruins’ most successful start in program history. The team’s excellent form has gotten Costa just as many wins as he was able to earn in the previous season, and the season is only at its midpoint.

Costa attributes his team’s current successes to its holistic approach on and off the pitch.

“Our group has been committed and disciplined in its daily approach. This includes training, games, academics and social life. This discipline has accumulated and allowed us to improve each week,” he said.

According to Costa, morale is also high in the Bruins’ camp, following a streak of positive performances.

“There is a very strong morale, and an attitude of putting the team first is resulting in success,” Costa said. “The guys are excited about the results and to have more soccer to play in the coming weeks.”

Defensively, the team has currently had a very low goal turnover rate, maintaining a shut-out in four of their six games. Meanwhile, on the offensive side of the pitch, the Bruins have scored 13 goals this season and have an average of nine shots per game.

Key wins over Southern Conference opponents Wofford University and Virginia Military Institute have the Bruins sitting comfortably at the top of the table. However, with fewer games in hand and four conference opponents yet to be played against, the team has to be cautious and continue to maintain their offensive output.

Although the team’s success is a result of team chemistry and collaboration, there are many individual performances that deserve some credit.

Junior Liam O’Brien leads the team in goals scored along with freshman A.J. Chastonay. The pair has three goals each to their name, and together, they make up almost half of all of the goals the Bruins have scored this season. 

O’Brien has had a large impact in Belmont’s offense this season, being a primary target for his team to pass to. His brace against Lipscomb sealed the game for his team in overtime, and he is certainly one to watch in the second half of the season.

Chastonay, although only a freshman, always has an eye on goal. His dominant showing against Bellarmine University, in which he scored two goals, is proof of this. He is a player that adds depth to Costa’s team, and as he develops this freshman year, eyes should be on him whenever he makes an appearance on the pitch.

Playing an essential support role is another freshman, Michael Saunders, who has been credited with an assist in three of Belmont’s six games. 

Saunders has solidified himself as an essential player on the Bruins’ squad. Being a freshman, he still has lots of room to develop and continues to make large contributions for this Belmont team.

Coach Costa is very pleased with the performances some of his underclassmen have displayed in this season so far.

“Mikey and A.J. have both stepped in and helped our team with some key moments of production. Eric Stiles has played every minute at central defense to record four shutouts. We have a great blend of upperclassmen and young guys right now,” Costa said. 

Out wide, wingbacks Estaban Lestido and Jack Shaw have put up stellar supporting performances with three assists and a goal between them. Whether shutting down chances or opening up the play on the wings, the two have been essential to Belmont’s defense and offense.

Niccolo Dagnoni, although a player synonymous with scoring goals, is taking more of a supporting role as the team’s captain. 

Costa considers Dagononi a strong leader, who leads in both word and action. A veteran of the Bruins, Dagnoni always does what’s best for his team, and as a result, the junior has seen more assists than goals this year, recording three assists and one goal for Belmont.

The Bruins only have four games left in their shortened spring season, where they will face off against the rest of their conference opponents over the span of two weeks. Moving forward through the second half of the season, Costa wants his team to continue to maintain a disciplined approach and a strong identity built on defending.

The Bruins are in great form and are likely eyeing a coveted top half seed for the SoCon tournament. Only time can tell where Belmont will end up at the end of the season. But for now, the Bruins will definitely be a side to watch as the regular season begins to wrap up.

This article written by David Pang.

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