CLERMONT, Fla. - Senior midfielder Natalie Belva (Colorado Springs, Colo./Liberty) scored four of her five goals in the second half, with her last tally snapping an 8-8 tie and powering Virginia Wesleyan past Western New England 10-8 Tuesday at the National Training Complex.
Belva's game-winning goal came just 39 seconds after the Golden Bears' Megan Doyle scored to tie the game for the third time.
"When it's tied like that we usually try to take more time off the clock, but Natalie saw an opening, dodged her defender and just attacked," Virginia Wesleyan coach Fran Pochily said. "We pride ourselves on having a lot of different scoring threats, but you could tell Natalie was just feeling it. Her teammates did a great job of setting her up."
The Marlins jumped out to a 5-1 lead, but Western New England closed to within 5-3 at intermission. Belva's second goal of the day boosted Virginia Wesleyan's lead to 6-3, but the Golden Bears responded with three unanswered goals to pull even at six and set up the back-and-forth finish and Belva's heroics.
Belva, who led the Marlins in assists (23) and points (66) last season and earned All-ODAC honors, also had an assist. Freshman Alex Lambert (Alexandria, Va./Hayfield) added three goals, including an insurance tally with 2:10 to play. Courtney Shelton (Prince Frederick, Md./Huntingtown) contributed two goals and an assist, and Taylor Harding (Norfolk, Va./Norfolk Collegiate) chipped in three assists as the Marlins won for the second time in three games.
"We've had some tough losses this season, so it really meant a lot to get this win, especially over a Northern school," Pochily said.
The Marlins (4-5) are expecting an even tougher challenge when they conclude their two-game Florida series on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. against Buffalo State. On March 15, the Bengals (4-2) upended Hamilton, which at the time was ranked No. 10 in the country.
"This is going to be the best team we've played so far," Pochily said.