Versatile Stiles to take fifth year at Belmont

Columbus East graduate and Belmont senior Eric Stiles, left, battles for the ball in a match against Northern Illinois on Oct. 22, 2023.

Scott Walstrom | Northern Illinois Athletics

Eric Stiles has been one of the most versatile players for the Belmont men’s soccer team the past four seasons.

The 2020 Columbus East graduate has been a cog in the starting lineup for the Bruins for much of his career.

Stiles has changed positions on the field a few times during his tenure at Belmont. He originally was recruited to play as a center midfielder. When he arrived to campus and started practicing with the team, there was a shortage of center backs on the roster, so Stiles was switched to that position his freshman year.

Stiles stayed as a center back for most games the next couple years until this past season, when he moved back to his natural midfield position.

Stiles is one of the most decorated soccer players to come through East. After his senior year, he was named first-team All-State by the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association and became the first player from East to be selected to the United Soccer Coaches Fall Boys High School All-Region Team for the Great Lakes Region. The Olympians made history that season reaching the state’s final four for the first and only time in school history in 2019.

Stiles also was named The Republic Boys Soccer Player of the Year in 2019 and The Republic Male Athlete of the Year in 2020.

While achieving much success in high school, Stiles found out that college soccer is very much different than when he played at high school. Playing in college has helped him evolve his game to greater heights.

“It helps me with positional work like organization and just positioning on the field when the ball is in different parts,” Stiles said. “Also, making quicker decisions. That is a huge difference in high school age with 16- to 17-year-olds and playing against 22- or 23-year-olds.”

Columbus East graduate and Belmont senior Eric Stiles (20) gets a head on the ball in a match against Bowling Green on Oct. 14, 2023.

Garrett Ohrenberg | Belmont University

This season, Stiles played in 18 matches, starting 14 for the Bruins, who went 8-7-3, including 3-4-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference. During his freshman year, which was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he earned SoCon (Southern Conference) All-Freshman team honors. The school moved to the MVC in the fall of 2022.

Originally, Stiles came into Belmont majoring in data sciences. After his freshman year, he switched to a biophysics program that the school offers. He hasn’t ruled out the possibility of attending graduate school following his bachelor’s degree from Belmont.

Eric Stiles

Because he switched majors, Stiles still has another class he needs to take in the fall of next year, which is convenient for him since he’ll plan to take his extra year of eligibility stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since it’ll be my last year, I’d like to try to win as many games as possible. I feel that’s on everybody’s agenda here,” Stiles said. “I’ve been here four years, and even previous until now, Belmont hasn’t been D-I for too long for soccer, but has never been a conference champion. It would be really nice to chase that. That’s a goal of mine.”