On a sun-soaked Alumni Stadium field, the Bruin women kicked off BJU’s return to intercollegiate athletics Friday evening against Truett-McConnell College. Although succumbing to a 2-0 defeat, the Bruins displayed great fight and resolve throughout the contest.
The Bruins started slowly and dodged an early setback when Truett-McConnell midfielder Maddy Clark swept the ball into the net from six yards out in the fifth minute. But the goal was disallowed when the linesman ruled that Clark was offside.
Minutes later, Bruins’ goalkeeper Tori Anderson stood up to stop a one-on-one attempt. She finished a strong first half with eight saves.
Truett-McConnell threatened again, but Becca Luttrell made a vital block to keep the score level. The pressure was telling, however, and Truett-McConnell broke the deadlock when midfielder Joy Smith found teammate Mallory Reynolds in the center of the box as she cut away from the Bruins’ sweeper before firing into the bottom left corner of the goal.
Freshman Lauren Peek provided a much-needed spark off the bench and almost grabbed the equalizer when she sprinted clear of the defense and smashed a drive from nearly 25 yards that the Truett-McConnell goalkeeper just managed to tip to safety.
In the second half, the Bruins’ defense settled under the steady leadership of captain Caitlyn Lehman. Truett-McConnell’s chances to score dwindled, but the Bruins struggled to create a clear scoring opportunity to tie the game.
In the 82nd minute, Truett-McConnell sent in another cross and Bruins’ defender Annie Ubben tried to head off the danger, but the ball deflected off her and ended up in the back of the net.
“[The women] were ready to go. They came out with great composure, and I felt they played a great game,” head coach Chris Carmichael said afterward.
Dealing with the pressure throughout the day presented a unique challenge to the players. “I tried to put it out of my head and make it so my classes were what I was thinking about right then,” Lehman said.
“I felt like people would ask us every class, ‘Are you ready?’ and it made me nervous all over again,” fellow captain Sarah Porch said.
While Bruin unity shone from the student body, the women’s soccer team led by example on the field, keeping the ultimate goal of intercollegiate athletics at the forefront of their efforts.
“I know our team is spiritually-minded, and we’ve been growing together and growing closer to God through this,” Lehman said.
The Bruin women played their second game Saturday against Newberry College. Despite strong play in the first half, the Bruins were overcome 5-0 in the second.