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Men's Soccer game
Opinion,  Sports

Boulevard victory escapes men’s soccer again

Battle of the Boulevard demons continue to haunt Lipscomb as they fail to score against their archrivals

NASHVILLE – Over the past three and a half years, a generation of Lipscomb fans has watched their men’s soccer team accomplish just about everything imaginable for a mid-major program.

The Bisons have packed Lipscomb Soccer Complex on countless occasions, reached the National Tournament, knocked off multiple top-25 teams, and even reached a #18 ranking nationally themselves.

But the one thing they’ve never managed in this golden age of Bisons soccer is the holy grail for any Lipscomb sport–laying claim to the Boulevard and beating Belmont.

There have been infamous almosts, from the double-overtime match-winner that was a second too late to the goalkeeper error that gifted Belmont a 2-1 win in overtime.

But since fall 2018, Lipscomb simply hasn’t been able to nab a win over their biggest rivals and closest neighbors.

Cheered on by a new guard of freshman fanatics and senior soccer fans who now will never see Lipscomb beat the Bruins, the southern side of the Boulevard was still unable to prevail Tuesday night in the 2022 edition of the rivalry.

A 0-0 draw was the result, an ending specific to soccer which leaves a unique lack of closure for all parties involved. It’s easy to leave a 0-0 match not knowing fully how to feel about the end result, especially in a bitter contest such as the Battle of the Boulevard.

Indeed, even the opinions from within Lipscomb’s camp were conflicting. 18th-year Lipscomb head coach Charles Morrow was quick to defend his team’s performance despite failing to pick up a win for the first time in 2022.

“We would have liked to win the game,” Morrow said, “but I don’t know how disappointing the result is, quite honestly. Yeah, I’m disappointed we didn’t come away with another win, but we’re proud of the guys’ fight tonight and their resolve.”

Morrow did admit his side lacked a cutting edge in the final phase of play, but that didn’t damper his overall assessment of the match.

“The quality that we’ve seen in the attacking third in past games just wasn’t there tonight, and this [artificial turf] surface changes the way the game is played. I wouldn’t look at this as a disappointing result; I thought the guys played hard and just didn’t have enough to push us over the line in the end,” Morrow said.

In fairness, the hospitality was hostile from Belmont in a stadium Lipscomb hasn’t won in since 2013. The humble facility joint-owned between Belmont and the City of Nashville doesn’t hold many fans, but its small capacity was well exceeded on this Tuesday night.

Despite Lipscomb’s #17 national ranking entering the contest, a Belmont team that’s knocked off five top-25 teams in program history played entirely unafraid, winning challenges and creating discomfort for Lipscomb on the ball.

The match itself was as tense as the atmosphere, with neither team finding their footing in midfield. Lipscomb couldn’t establish their trademark attacking dominance, instead finding a brick wall in the middle of the park from Belmont’s midfielders.

Belmont had the best chance to go ahead in the first 45, hitting the post on a left-side shot from 15 yards out. Preseason ASUN Player of the Year Tyrese Spicer came off the bench in the first half to create the Bisons’ best chance, but his effort inside the box fell just wide.

In the second half, the proceedings began mostly the way they did in the first.

Each side created more chances, but neither was able to dispatch a clear-cut opportunity.

In the 60th minute, the Bisons had the best opportunity of the match with a free kick on the right edge of the box. Senior attacking midfielder Alejandro Lopez took the set piece, but his cross was long and the chance was wasted.

As the minutes ticked away, the action on the sideline only grew more exciting. Chants rung out back and forth between the two sets of student sections, with each chant seeking to outshine the last.

From the 70th minute on, Lipscomb kept the ball in their attacking half, but poor passing in the attacking third kept the Bisons from a clean look at goal.

Fifth-year senior Louis Robinson ventured forward from his left back position to take a long-distance strike, but it soared high and wide left.

Cyprus-born winger Ploutarchos Alonefti found himself in space on the right flank 25 yards from goal, but his shot also ended up over the crossbar.

In the 89th minute, it was nearly Belmont who stole the points with a counter attack against the run of play. A shot was sent towards goal by leading scorer Liam O’Brien, but his effort was skied over the bar from close range.

Nothing more was on the cards for either side, and the two rivals were forced to settle for a scoreless draw. Senior center back Will Turner was pleased with a job well done defensively, but indicated more disappointment than his manager did.

“Obviously, it’s frustrating not having beat them in the regular season for a few years,” Turner said. “Extremely frustrating we didn’t put one in, [but] we kept zeros on the scoreboard, which is a good sign for the defensive unit.”

With a debatably frustrating result behind them in yet another Battle of the Boulevard where honors were split, Lipscomb now looks ahead to the start of ASUN Conference play, where matches begin to carry more postseason significance.

“We won [the ASUN Championship] last year, and it’s our job to retain it again,” Turner said. “That’s the hardest thing… knowing that you’re the team everyone wants to beat. It’s also a lot of pressure, but we’re going to take that well and show why we’re the best team in the conference.”

The Bisons begin their title defense with a home matchup against Jacksonville 7 p.m. Saturday at Lipscomb Soccer Complex. The Dolphins won the ASUN title in 2019 and are the most recent conference champions outside of Lipscomb.