Sept. 23, 2013
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Last Friday, in a 10-1 Southern Miss win over Alcorn State, there was no shortage of goals. There wasn't even a shortage of career first goals as the Golden Eagles saw three players achieve that landmark.
Yet, among the bevy of goals and the joy that comes from a convincing win, senior midfielder Kimberly Belmont's second-half goal elicited a comparatively more vocal reaction from the Southern Miss bench.
But this isn't the women's soccer version of a "Rudy" moment, the heartwarming tale of a Notre Dame football player getting a sack in his first, last and only game with the Fighting Irish after a career spent on the practice squad.
Belmont has been an integral part of the Golden Eagle soccer team for years, a linchpin of both the forward attack and defensive effort, and the goal was not a fond farewell from a grateful team but a moment that quantified for the casual viewer the contributions the 5-foot-4 Louisianan has made.
The Southern Miss women's soccer family, head coach Mohammed El-Zare included, are well aware and fully appreciative of her importance to the success of the team.
"Kim's leadership for this team has been invaluable," El-Zare said. "She is a leader in every sense of the word. She leads by voice and by example. Everything she says, she follows with action. Whether she is working with her teammates outside of practice or pursuing her studies or playing during a match, she does everything to the `T.' She is a player you never have to encourage, never have to check up on. She does it all the right way."
Belmont, a team captain in 2013, acknowledges her role as a leader on the team but says she doesn't act alone.
"It's easy to lead when you have great teammates who love the sport," Belmont said. "When you see them play with such love and such passion, it makes you want to equal that passion."
While some of her teammates' efforts are evidenced by goals, assists or saves, Belmont's contributions typically manifest themselves in ways that will not appear on the stat sheet.
A hustle for a free ball here and a sprint to aid on defense there, a well-placed word of encouragement or instruction to a teammate ... there is no category for intangibles, but Belmont's immeasurables are nonetheless felt throughout the Golden Eagle lineup.
"She may not lead the team in statistical categories," El-Zare said, "but her presence on the field is critically important to our success. She keeps us together at all times. When we face challenges in games, she is there to keep up focused, keep us positive and help us fight through."
In 2013, the Golden Eagles have battled to the tune of a 6-2-2 start heading into Conference USA play.
It is the best start for Southern Miss since 2003 and already a greater win total than any single year of Belmont's career. It's a success rate that the veteran attributes to a collective team remembering why it plays.
"I want to say it's us having fun and realizing this is the game we've loved for so long and are blessed to play," Belmont said. "This year, we've been given a glimpse of hope and we have grabbed on and are running with it."
Belmont and the Golden Eagles face North Texas Friday night at 7 p.m. in Denton, Texas, for the start of Conference USA play.