Trevecca buckles down on defense, rises from rough start to women's soccer season

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 11:43pm

Brett Armstrong cautiously looked at the next game on the schedule.

The Trevecca Nazarene women’s soccer team had opened the season with two straight losses. Now, the Trojans, in the midst of a transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II, were headed across town to play Lipscomb, a Division I program.

Armstrong, in his sixth year as head coach, feared a bad loss to the Bisons could send the Trojans on a downward spiral. Instead that game was the start of something incredible.

“I think after that game, the girls sort of believed they could play with anybody,” Armstrong said.

Trevecca played Lipscomb to a scoreless tie in double overtime on Sept. 6 — the first of a school-record six straight shutouts. The Trojans went more than four weeks and 650 minutes without allowing a goal. They won four games and tied twice during the stretch as the streak ended last Friday in a 2-1 win at Campbellsville (Ky.).

Trevecca (5-2-2) had never posted more than five shutouts in a single season in the 13-year history of the program.

“I’ve never been a part of something like that,” sophomore defender Jordan Ponto said. “To have shutouts for 600 and some minutes at a time is absolutely crazy.”

The Trojans return to action on Thursday with a road trip to Urbana, Ohio, where they’ll see new Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC) foes Urbana and Ursuline on Saturday.

They had previously last been scored against on Sept. 1 when they lost 3-1 to Southern Nazarene. From there, they put together a “team effort” to pitch shutout after shutout.

“Our team has grown as a whole so our defense is not just the back four and me,” goalkeeper Bekah Headrick said. “It starts at the very top with whoever is playing up top, [midfielder] Kayla VanEs pressures them to make a mistake. So it never gets us to if we’re lucky.”

Headrick stands as the last line of defense. But in front of her is a four-defender wall of Ponto, Erica Carroll, Jessica Porter and Kate Worley with Mackenzie Cox, Mandy Nuckols and Audrey Robinson rotating in. Armstrong also credited his athletic midfielders for keeping opponents from threatening often.

In fact, three of the shutouts featured two shots or less. Headrick made a total of 24 saves during the streak, with 12 coming against Lipscomb.

“She doesn’t let up in practice,” Porter said. “She doesn’t say, ‘Oh well, I’m not going to get any shots. I’m just going to back down.’ She still continues to work as hard as she can. We also work as hard as we can to not have to let her get shot after shot after shot. I don’t think she has seen very many shots and I’d like to keep it that way.

“We take a lot of pride in that. I think not letting them shoot is another one of our biggest things too.”

They’ve succeeded in that department too. Opponents have taken just 80 shots and scored only five times. In addition to leading the G-MAC in goals allowed (0.56 per game), Trevecca also has scored the most (18).

In eight starts, Headrick has made 27 saves and allowed just two goals for an average of 0.26, which leads the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA). The senior from Hendersonville has played with a heavy heart. Nearly a year ago, her father, Tony, died from leukemia.

“You can tell that she plays with a little extra fire under her,” Ponto said. “He was always there for her at all the games. She is an inspiration to all of us.”

Against Campbellsville, the ball finally slid by the defense and Headrick.

Forward Toria Alsip fired a long shot toward the goal as Headrick tried to come out and down the angle. The ball bounced off her right knee, hit the post and trickled into the net to tie the game early in the second half. After the immediate shock, the Trojans responded.

Fifteen minutes later, Brooke Gann scored her second goal of the game and team-best sixth of the season to lift the Trojans to their fourth straight win.

“It was another moment where it could have turned and gone the other way,” Armstrong said. “But I think it speaks to the chemistry on the team that they just looked at each other and ran at them, scored the goal and got right back ahead.”

And started another streak.