Belmont Women's Soccer 2021 Digital Media Guide

Since 1997, Belmont Women's Soccer has carried a proud tradition of excellence on and off the pitch. The Bruins have collected 148 academic conference honors, 17 Academic All-American + District honors, 18 OVC Medal of Honors, 45 All-Conference honors, one NCAA Woman of the Year Top 30 finalist (Ali Alcott), three conference championships and two NCAA Tournament appearances.

Belmont made its second NCAA Tournament appearance in 2019 and traveled to No. 2 North Carolina. Photo Courtesy of Andy Mead.

In the classroom, Belmont prides itself in being one of the top academic women's soccer programs in the country. The Bruins have earned the United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award 15 straight years and had 21 student-athletes earn a spot on the OVC Commissioner's Honor Roll during the 2019-20 academic year. Belmont has also posted the highest team GPA in NCAA Division I twice as recognized by the National Soccer College Coaches Association of America (NSCAA).

Belmont Women's Soccer earned a team GPA of 3.587 during the 2020 Fall Semester.

Entering her 10th season, head coach Heather Henson has lifted Belmont to new heights. She is the program's all-time wins leader and most recently guided the Bruins to the OVC Championship and second NCAA Tournament appearance in program history in 2019.

Head coach Heather Henson is Belmont's all-time wins leader in program history.

History of the Program

Belmont Women's Soccer started in 1997, with the first win in program history coming on Sept. 11, 1997 against Martin Methodist (5-0). In just the second season, Belmont recorded a program record of 15 regular season wins in 1998. This included the program's first Power 5 win on Sept. 20, 1998 against Mississippi State (1-0).

15-Win 1998 Belmont Bruins
Kathleen Penner was Belmont's first women's soccer coach in program history. She helped the Bruins to a program record 15 wins in 1998 and held a career record of 23-12.

Recording 13 wins in 2008, Belmont took home the Atlantic Sun Championship and advanced by way of penalty kicks in the final two matches. The Bruins faced Auburn in its first NCAA Tournament in program history. They followed that up with a regular season championship in 2009.

After claiming the Atlantic Sun title in 2008, Belmont faced Auburn in its first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history.

Belmont has had a total of 11 hat tricks in program history, with Meggan Harris obtaining Belmont's first on Oct. 7, 1997 against Chattanooga. Niki Clements was the most recent Belmont Women's Soccer player to achieve that mark, scoring three goals against Jacksonville State on Oct. 6, 2019. She is the only player in Belmont Women's Soccer history to record a hat trick in the 2010s era.

Niki Clements' Hat Trick Highlights

'This is Good'

Despite facing adversity during the 2019 season, Belmont constantly welcomed the challenge. This was especially true in the OVC Tournament. After defeating Austin Peay in the first round 1-0 in overtime, the Bruins upset No. 3 seed UT Martin 3-2 to advance to its first conference semifinal since 2009.

Upsetting No. 2 seed Murray State 2-1 in the OVC Semifinals, Belmont took on SIUE for the championship. The match came down to penalty kicks, where Belmont was eliminated in the previous two OVC Tournaments. The Bruins, however, completed the job and defeated SIUE in penalty kicks 3-2 to take the OVC Championship.

The following day on Nov. 11, 2019, the Bruins found out they would travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. to face No. 2 North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. The entire university felt the excitement, from giving a standing ovation to the team at the men's basketball home opener to cheering on the group as the bus left for the Nashville Airport.

The moment Belmont saw their name on the NCAA Women's Soccer Tournament Selection Show.

Belmont officially played in its second NCAA Tournament in program history on Nov. 16, 2019. Senior goalkeeper Lily Herman recorded 12 saves on the night to collect the most saves in a single season in Belmont Women's Soccer history with 131.

Lifting The Program

Since 2011, head coach Heather Henson has helped the Bruins become nationally acclaimed for academic achievement and community service. Henson recently guided the Bruins to one of the most historic seasons in program history in 2019, with Belmont winning the OVC Tournament as a No. 6 seed and earning its way to the second ever NCAA Tournament appearance in program history.

Henson brought 16 years of head coaching experience to Belmont, including stops at East Tennessee State and High Point.

On Sept. 21, 2018, Henson passed Lisa Howe (2005-10) to become the all-time wins leader in Belmont women's soccer history with a 1-0 win over Morehead State. She has 64 wins at Belmont heading into the 2021 Spring season.

Henson has helped the Bruins to four consecutive conference tournament appearances.

In 2016, Henson led the Bruins to previously untouched milestones as they shut out five consecutive conference foes for a total to 531 scoreless minutes over a seven game span. The squad’s record-breaking OVC slate led to Belmont’s first OVC Tournament appearance in four years.

Henson coaching Belmont in the 2019 NCAA Tournament against North Carolina. Courtesy of Andy Mead.

Henson takes tremendous pride in her teams performing well in the classroom. Under Henson's watch, the program has twice posted the highest team GPA in NCAA Division I as recognized by the National Soccer College Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). The Bruins earned the top mark for the 2013-14 school year at 3.73 and for 2014-15 at 3.83. The latter saw Belmont score highest among all NCAA Division I, II and III women's soccer programs. The program has received NSCAA Team Academic honors in each of her years as head coach, also earning the United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award 15 consecutive years to date. The Bruins have also been awarded OVC Team Academic Achievement Honors in 2012, 2013 and 2014. They also earned the OVC Sportsmanship Award in 2015.

Program Core Values

Belmont Women's Soccer has five words that are the platform for the program.


“Doing the right thing, even when no one is watching."


“The willingness to make sacrifices, without knowing the outcome.”


"Unity is Strength”


“What matters is that you’ve fought, learned, and survived.”


"Above all you need...Heart”

Coaching Staff

Assistant Coach/Goalkeeper Coach Valerie Tysinger

Valerie Tysinger is in her third season with the Belmont women's soccer program. She was promoted to the top assistant position in the Spring of 2019. In addition to assisting with the day-to-day operations of the program, Tysinger aids in the development of Belmont's field players while also serving as the team's goalkeeper coach. During the historic 2019 season that resulted in an OVC Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance, Tysinger guided goalkeeper Lily Herman to a single-season record of 131 saves and the third-most saves in NCAA Women's Soccer in 2019. She helped Herman to All-OVC Tournament Team honors, where Herman collected 34 saves during the OVC Championship run.

Assistant Coach Andrew Cameron

Andrew Cameron joined Belmont Women's Soccer as an assistant coach in June 2019. Cameron's impact was immediate, where he played a crucial role in helping Belmont win its first conference title in 11 years and second ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2019. In his role of skill development, Cameron helped Julie Garst, Rachel Vernon and Avery Nowak to All-OVC honors and four players to All-OVC Tournament Team recognition, with Garst winning the Tournament MVP. Cameron joined the Bruins after one season as an assistant coach at nearby Division II Trevecca Nazarene University.

Community Service

Belmont Women's Soccer is an active participant in community service both locally and nationally. In 2019, Haley Poynter and Rachel Vernon represented the women's soccer program on a Belmont mission trip to Belize. During their stay, they served the people in Benque, Belize, the country's westernmost city, at Benque Nazarene Church. They used their gifts and skills by teaching sports to kids, helping with service projects and building relationships with the local Belizean people.

Haley Poynter (left) and Rachel Vernon (Right) on their 2019 Belmont Mission Trip in Belize.

When Nashville was struck by a tornado in March 2020, the Belmont Women's Soccer program was quick to lend a helping hand. The Bruins volunteered at One Generation Away, packing food and serving the Nashville community for those in need.

Belmont at One Generation Away in March in 2020.

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Belmont was unable to take its annual in-person mission trip. Instead, Belmont Sports Ministry set up a virtual mission trip through the Show Hope organization so student-athletes can learn about the welfare of children around the world. Student-athletes participated in the Pause Campaign through Show Hope. The Pause Campaign provided an opportunity to refocus students' hearts and minds on what God is doing in the lives of waiting children around the world. Haley Poynter, Rachel Vernon, Emma Sharou, Kayla Monis and Morgan Pettit went through through a daily devotional that goes through scripture and informed the student-athletes on the global orphan crisis.

Morgan Pettit Virtual Mission Trip Reflection

Alumnae Spotlight

Belmont Women's Soccer Alumnae have carried the first-class Bruin tradition after their time on the Nashville campus. Whether it is continuing on to a professional soccer career, starting a working career or leading in a community service project, former players have gone on to make Belmont proud.

Stephanie Bukovec (17') helped the Croatian National Team win its first Cyprus Women's Cup in March 2020.

In addition to helping Croatia to its first Cyprus Cup, Stephanie Bukovec has been no stranger to the professional soccer stage. She signed a one-year contract with AFC Ajax Vrouwen in July of 2019. Prior to her time with Ajax Vrouwen, Bukovec spent half a season in Croatia playing for ŽNK Split and helped the team claim the 2018-19 Croatian Women's First Football League title and take the Croatian Cup for the first time in program history. The Toronto, Ontario, Canada native has played professionally for several international clubs since graduating from Belmont in 2017, beginning her career in Sweden that same year. Bukovec also played for Þór/KA in Iceland, where her team advanced to the UEFA Women's Champions League round of 32. Bukovec was named Player of the Tournament, coming up with three shutouts during the group stage. She has also had stints with PEC Zwolle in Holland and Töcksfors IF in Sweden.

Several Belmont Women's Soccer alumnae are currently working as nurses, helping the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lauren Paynter, Heather Ferrari, Meg Howard, Ali Alcott, Patience Whitten, Emily Jones, Lauren Trappey and many others are Belmont Women's Soccer alumnae currently working in the healthcare field and helping the United States fight COVID-19. These alumnae have used skills such as teamwork, unity, trust and hard work that were incorporated during their time with Belmont Women's Soccer that they still use today.

Tara Austin (17') created and ran her own local charity run where she ran 14 miles and donated all funds to 14 local charities in Texas.

Former Belmont Women's Soccer student-athlete Tara Austin qualified for the Boston Marathon that was scheduled to take place on April 20, but the 123-year-old race was suspended due to COVID-19. With Austin completing months of training, she decided to use her training to benefit her community. Austin set up her own charity run in her hometown of Beaumont, Texas, completing a 14-mile course and managed to collect proceeds to donate to 14 different local business and non-profit organizations.

Academic Success

Belmont has won the OVC's Team Academic Award three times.

Belmont Women's Soccer focuses on success on the field and in the classroom. Since joining the Ohio Valley Conference in 2012, the Bruins have claimed the conference's Team Academic Award three times. Belmont has had 148 Academic Conference honors and 17 Academic All-American + District Honors. The Bruins have also collected 18 OVC Medal of Honors, given to student-athletes who have compiled a 4.0 GPA for the academic year.

Belmont had the top team GPA in NCAA Women's Soccer in 2013-14 and 2014-15.

The program has twice posted the highest team GPA among NCAA Women's Soccer programs as recognized by the National Soccer College Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). The Bruins earned the top mark for the 2013-14 school year at 3.73 and for 2014-15 at 3.83. The latter saw Belmont score highest among all NCAA Division I, II and III women's soccer teams. Belmont has also been awarded the United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award in 15 consecutive seasons.

Associate Athletic Director for Student Services/SWA Renee Schultz

Renee Schultz begins her fifth year as Associate Athletic Director for Student Services/Senior Woman Administrator and has been on staff at Belmont for 17 years. A former Belmont Women's Soccer player, she serves as the program's academic advisor. Schultz manages and oversees the extensive academic support programs offered to Belmont student-athletes which include weekly, one-on-one academic counseling sessions for new student-athletes, academic advising and class scheduling, tutoring and monitoring class performance. She works closely with coaches in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes, serving as the departmental liaison for admissions and meets with prospective student-athletes and their families during their recruiting visit. She also manages the department's Academic Enhancement Fund.

Rose Park

Belmont University has partnered with Nashville’s Metro Board of Parks and Recreation to provide $8 million worth of enhancements to nearby E.S. Rose Park which would also allow the university to lease space for athletics. Rose Park opened for play in April 2011. With a majestic view of the downtown Nashville skyline, the enhancements at Rose Park provide new resources for the Edgehill community and Belmont student-athletes including accessible walking trails and softball, baseball, track and soccer fields.

E.S. Rose Park has been home to the Bruins since 2011.

In the final regular season game of the 2019 season, Belmont had a record-breaking crowd of 513 fans on Oct. 27, 2019. The Bruins scored the game's only goal in the fifth minute to give Belmont a 1-0 win over Austin Peay on Senior Day, clinching a spot in the OVC Tournament in the process.

Belmont had a record-breaking crowd of 513 fans on Oct. 27, 2019 against Austin Peay.

The Metro Parks Board will maintain the exclusive authority to schedule the use of the park and will remain the sole owner of the park and its improvements. Utilizing the sports fields and their accompanying concessions will be neighbors from the Edgehill community, athletic teams from nearby public schools, the youth and adult recreational programs of Metro Parks, neighborhood churches, community groups, nonprofit sports organizations and Belmont University. The university also agreed to award eight full Belmont scholarships and two partial ones to students in the Edgehill community and help sponsor neighborhood little league baseball and softball teams.

Sports Performance

The Belmont Strength and Conditioning staff utilizes a 1,600-square-foot facility comprised of both free weights for power and Olympic lifting, as well as a variety of machines for more isolated movements. Recently renovated, the facility contains state-of-the-art equipment.

Belmont Athletics recently obtained new equipment for the 2021 season.

Belmont's Strength and Conditioning staff has a purpose to love, serve, and challenge student-athletes while preparing them to live and compete at their personal best. The staff trains these student-athletes in a manner that builds resiliency towards injury, increases athletic ability and enhances self-confidence.

Women's Soccer Sports Performance Coach Jack Gray

Jack Gray joined the Belmont strength and conditioning staff as a graduate assistant in August 2019. He works with women’s soccer, men's and women’s tennis, men's golf and assists with men's and women's basketball. Prior to Belmont, Gray served as a strength and conditioning intern at Florida for two years where he worked with the Gators’ golf and tennis teams in addition to helping oversee men’s and women’s basketball weight lifts. He spent the summer of 2019 as an intern with UNC-Charlotte’s strength and conditioning team, aiding the strength staff with the regulation of summer training sessions.

Director of Sports Performance Matt Frederick
Graduate Assistant for Sports Performance Jarrett Thompson

Athletic Training

The Belmont Athletic Training staff is primarily responsible for the delivery of quality healthcare to all student athletes participating in intercollegiate athletic programs at Belmont University. This care will be provided by the guidelines of the NATA through prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses sustained during any practice or game.

Elite Sports Medicine and Orthopedics oversees all athletic training services.

Founded by renowned surgeon and NFL physician Dr. Burton Elrod, Elite Sports Medicine and Orthopedics oversees all preventative care, athletic training, and rehabilitation services for Belmont University Athletics and its student-athletes. The Belmont Athletic Training department is housed in an 1860 square foot space within the Curb Event Center. The facility is fully-equipped with a hydroroom, taping area, treatment and rehabilitation area, as well as a physician’s office. Belmont’s 17 varsity sports are staffed by seven National Athletic Training Association certified athletic trainers.

Women's Soccer Athletic Trainer Emily Johnson.

Emily Johnson enters her second season with Belmont University Athletics as a graduate assistant athletic trainer. She serves as the point of contact for Bruin women's soccer and men's and women's track & field. Johnson graduated from the University of Cincinnati in May 2019, working with the Bearcats' women's soccer, football and baseball programs. As a student intern, Johnson worked with the University of Tennessee women's soccer program. A native of Columbus, Ohio, Johnson is working on her Masters of Sport Administration degree.

Ohio Valley Conference

Entering its 72nd season, the Ohio Valley Conference continues to build on the success that has made it the nation's eighth-oldest NCAA Division I Conference.

Belmont has been a member of the OVC since the 2012-13 season.

In May 2011, the Conference expanded for the second time in four years, adding Belmont University who began competition in the 2012-2013 academic year. The addition of Belmont gave the OVC 12 members - the most the league has had at one time in its illustrious history. Subsequently, the league has shown its stability over the past decade, seeing only one member institution depart over the past 14 years.

Commissioner Beth DeBauche announcing Belmont's admission to the OVC.

The 2009-2010 school year saw a change in leadership as Beth DeBauche was named the seventh full-time Commissioner in league history on July 28, 2009. She is currently one of just six females to be the head of a Division I conference and one of just nine to lead a Division I conference all-time. The last three commissioners of the OVC have moved onto jobs as the commissioner of the Big Ten, Big 12 and the Mid-American Conferences.

About Belmont

Consistently recognized as a “Most Innovative” university, Belmont University draws more than 8,400 students who represent every state and more than 36 countries. The campus sits on 93 picturesque acres that are located just two miles from downtown Nashville, Tennessee, a dynamic and vibrant hub for government, healthcare, music, tourism and more.

Belmont hosted the third and final 2020 Presidential Debate on Oct. 22, 2020.

A private, four-year university, Belmont brings together the best of liberal arts and professional education in a Christian community of learning and service. The University’s purpose is to help students explore their passions and develop their talents to meet the world’s needs.

Our Mission: Belmont University is a student-centered Christian community providing an academically challenging education that empowers men and women of diverse backgrounds to engage and transform the world with disciplined intelligence, compassion, courage and faith.

89% of Belmont's classes have fewer than 30 students.

Our Vision: To be a leader among teaching universities, bringing together the best of liberal arts and professional education in a Christian community of learning and service.

Our Values: As a student-centered Christian community with a rich Baptist heritage, Belmont University upholds the following core values as essential to the intellectual, spiritual, personal and corporate life: Integrity, Inquiry, Collaboration, Service and Humility.

About Nashville

By any measure, Nashville is one of the most desirable places to live and most sought-after tourist destinations in the world.

‘Music City’ can best be described as a pleasant mix of big city entertainment and "down home" friendliness. Nashville is located in the heart of our nation’s bustling core. Major cities such as St. Louis, Cincinnati, Memphis, Atlanta, and Birmingham can all be reached by car within 3-5 hours. And when going from work to play, Nashville has it all. The city offers a multitude of sporting events, recreational opportunities, restaurants, parks, and shopping malls.

The NHL's Nashville Predators have been one of the hottest tickets in Nashville. Photo by John Russell - Nashville Predators

The sports landscape in Nashville has changed dramatically over the past two decades with the introduction of major professional sports into the area. The Nashville Predators have introduced the thrills of the National Hockey League to Middle Tennessee. For the past three seasons, the Predators have been among the premier organizations in the NHL. Nashville became a national sensation in 2017 en route to the Western Conference Championship and berth in the Stanley Cup Finals, then backed it up winning the 2018 Presidents' Trophy. The Bruins and the Predators have a strong partnership, from corporate engagement and internship programs to fan support and community relations. The Preds skate in one of Nashville’s downtown landmarks, Bridgestone Arena. The 18,000-seat Bridgestone Arena is a regular venue for touring groups and international artists.

The Tennessee Titans made its first AFC Championship game appearance since 2002 during the 2020 season.

The arrival of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans in 1998 brought instant credibility and excitement to the Mid-State. The Titans have won three division titles and one conference championship. Tennessee represented the AFC in Super Bowl XXXIV, playing the St. Louis Rams in one of the most memorable games in NFL history. With two-time NFL rushing yards leader Derrick Henry, the future looks bright for the powder blue and white. Home for the Titans is Nissan Stadium, a 68,000 seat, state-of-the-art facility located on the east bank of the Cumberland River across from downtown. Aside from the NFL, Nissan Stadium also plays host to several major concerts and sporting events, including the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl - which now pits teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conferences each December. Nashville once again demonstrated its hospitality and unparalleled support of sports, playing host to the 2019 NFL Draft - universally regarded as one of the top sports entertainment events for fan experience in history.

Moreover, international soccer loves Music City, with friendlies and United States National Team matches regularly on the docket. Nissan Stadium played host to the Gold Cup, with Nashville as a potential host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. In addition, Nashville was awarded a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion franchise, Nashville SC, in 2020. In its first year in the MLS, the club made the MLS Cup Playoffs and advanced to the conference semifinals before falling to the eventual MLS champion Columbus Crew FC. Another constant among Nashville professional sports over the past two decades has been the Nashville Sounds. The Sounds, who have called Music City home since 1978, compete in the Pacific Coast League as the Class AAA affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. Through the years, players like Don Mattingly, Willie McGee, Chris Sabo, Magglio Ordonez, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Yovani Gallardo, and Ricky Weeks have used Nashville to jumpstart MLB stardom. The 2006 PCL Champion Sounds played at Greer Stadium, located just minutes from downtown and the former longtime home of Belmont Baseball. In 2015, the Sounds opened First Horizon Park.

Downtown Nashville. Photo by John Russell - Nashville Predators

The nightlife in downtown Nashville offers something for everyone. Amidst the savory sights and sounds of historic Second Avenue sit some of the most venerable hot spots anywhere. From Wildhorse Saloon and Hard Rock Cafe to Famous Dave’s BBQ and The Pancake Pantry, it is not uncommon to bump into stars of stage and screen in Nashville. Nashville's cultural environment earned the city its other nickname, the "Athens of the South." Nashville is well known as a major education center. The area's 10 accredited four-year and postgraduate institutions, including Belmont, are an integral part of the economic and cultural identity of the area. In addition to its educational institutions, the city offers numerous cultural and artistic venues. It is home to nine performing arts facilities, including the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. TPAC is the home to a wide range of events, including Broadway musicals and performances by the Nashville Ballet, Nashville Opera, and the Nashville Symphony. The city is also home to seven art galleries, including the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. The Frist Center, housed in the city's old main post office, presents a wide assortment of visual arts exhibitions. Nashville boasts 25 museums (including the Tennessee State Museum), numerous historic sites (like The Hermitage - home of President Andrew Jackson, an exact replica of the Parthenon, and the Natchez Trace Parkway), and an upgraded public library system that includes a new $50 million downtown library. Lastly, another addition to the downtown landscape, the magnificent Music City Center convention center opened Spring 2013 and further cements Nashville’s place as a desired international meeting place.

Known as "Music City USA", Nashville is a city whose musical tastes range from country to rock to gospel. The city has several major concert venues and many big-name concert tours consider Nashville a “must-stop.” The city also serves as home to the Grand Ole Opry, the nation's longest running weekly radio show, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Nashville has long been the mecca of the country music industry and is one of the top recording centers in the world. All of the music industry's major recording labels have a presence in Music Row, just north of the Belmont campus.

Created By
Grant Cohen


Sam Simpkins, Ethan Carr, John Russell-Nashville Predators, Andy Mead and Grant Cohen