USF’s inability to stop UCF’s corner kicks prevented the Bulls from walking away with an opening game victory. The Golden Knights victimized the Bulls twice from corner kicks as UCF won 2-1 Monday.
“Set plays are always really dangerous,” defender Stacci Sastre said. “It’s hard when you win the first ball, which we did out of the back, but we really need to improve on winning the second ball. That was our big problem tonight. With 50-50 ball, we didn’t win the first ball or the second. When you do a mistake like that in the box, a good team will capitalize.”
The game-winner arrived in the 56th minute as Sastre headed the ball off the line to save a goal at the far post, but USF (0-1) couldn’t clear and Monique Aviles curled home the game-winner from 18 yards out.
Allison Blagriff’s goal off Courtney Baines’ corner kick in the 31st minute broke the scoreless tie.
“We had a ball that our outside back cleared off the line with her head and then the midfield cleared it back to the middle of the 18, and the kid pounded it away,” USF coach Logan Fleck said.
Fleck, who watched the game from the press box while serving a one-game suspension imposed by USF Athletics Director Lee Roy Selmon, said the Bulls had matched UCF throughout the game.
“All things considered, that was a mistake that we caused,” Fleck said. “As a coach, you’re looking, ‘Did we get outplayed?’ But I’m not so sure we were outplayed. We made mistakes that young teams are going to make.”
Two Bulls, midfielder Laura Tucker and defender Tiffany Toale, made their first starts Monday as did Erin Dafeldecker. She was one of four freshmen who made their debuts against UCF. Dafeldecker made an immediate impact as she assisted on USF’s only goal, Rachel Ross’ header in the 31st minute. The goal came six seconds after Blagriff’s score.
But with that inexperience, UCF kept preseason C-USA All-Conference goalkeeper Breck Bankester busy. Bankester, who was questionable for the game with a high ankle sprain, recorded 13 saves.
UCF dominated play in the Bulls’ end, outshooting USF 13-6 in the first half and 27-8 for the game. The Golden Knights (2-0) also blanked the Bulls in corner kicks, 6-0.
“They got some good shots off, but nothing that really made me move a lot,” Bankester said. “Everything was to my hands, standing up. Saves are when you have to dive to post or fly through and come up with the save.
“As compared to last year (a 5-1 loss to Miami) and the year before (a 4-1 defeat vs. Utah), we couldn’t have started our season any better.”