Saint Mary’s soccer crossed the Illinois border Wednesday night to face Aurora in their third game of the new season. Senior forward Jillian Bowen scored her second goal of the year to give Saint Mary’s an early lead, but the Belles were ultimately forced to settle for a 1-1 tie as they continue to seek their first win.
Saint Mary’s and Aurora entered the game with similar resumes, each holding records of 0-1-1 while undergoing struggles on the offensive end. The Belles opened their season with a 1-1 tie on the road against Concordia Chicago before being shut out in a 1-0 home loss to Central, while Aurora was unable to get on the board in either of its first two games.
Those scoring woes were nowhere to be found in an action-packed first half Wednesday. After both sides failed to convert on chances in the opening minutes, the Belles went on the attack. Junior midfielder Lindsey Adent gained possession from the Spartans in the offensive third and quickly found Bowen, who pushed the ball toward the center of the field before putting a shot just past the Aurora goalkeeper, giving Saint Mary’s an advantage before even 10 minutes had passed. Bowen has been a consistent goal-scoring threat for the Belles, having scored both of the team’s goals this season after finding the back of the net four times last year. The assist was Adent’s first of the season.
The lead would prove to be short-lived for Saint Mary’s. Although they controlled possession for much of the opening half, an opportunistic Spartan team moved the ball quickly up the field after a Belles turnover to score an equalizer in minute 23, with Aurora sophomore midfielder Lauren Bliefernicht setting up senior midfielder Jessica Mirsky, who tallied the goal that evened the score at 1-1.
Looking to build on the momentum that came from erasing the deficit, Aurora played aggressively for the remainder of the first half. The Spartans took nine shots in the period as a whole, six of them being on goal. Luckily for the Belles, high-level play from sophomore goalie Kara Stacey kept them in the game. After ceding the early goal, Stacey bounced back to record a season-high seven saves.
Both teams came out of the halftime break looking to attack, with each hoping to secure the goal that would put them into the win column for the first time. Just as in the first half, the Belles controlled play for most of the early minutes. Unlike the first half, though, they could not capitalize despite creating several strong opportunities. Effective goalie play on both ends turned the game into a defensive struggle.
With the contest seemingly headed toward a tie, the Saint Mary’s offense made a final push in the closing minutes but was stymied by the Aurora back line. Sophomore midfielder Grace Barresi and junior forward Kaitlyn Day both had shots saved, and another strike from Barresi went just wide, leaving the game to be concluded at 1-1.
Looking ahead, Saint Mary’s will continue non-conference play with a pair of road games this weekend, taking on Hanover on Friday at 5 p.m. and DePauw on Sunday at noon. The Belles will then return to South Bend for a string of three straight home games, beginning with a matchup against Franklin next Thursday night.