University of South Florida women’s soccer coach Denise Schilte-Brown said she had a feeling it would be a crazy weekend.
She was right.
The Bulls hosted a pair of home games at the newly renovated USF Soccer Stadium, and a record crowd of 1,217 showed up Thursday night to watch the Bulls play against the Stetson Hatters. The large crowd broke the previous attendance record of 1,004, set in October 2007.
“The crowd was amazing,” Schilte-Brown said. “We are so grateful of them coming. The Bull Busters, the parents, everyone was out and we were blessed to have the support. It made it a lot of fun.”
Despite the large USF turnout, it was the Stetson fans that made the early noise.
Freshman Sarah Rodriguez broke through the USF defense and slotted a low shot past Bulls goalkeeper Mallori Lofton-Malachi to put the Hatters up 1-0 in the 31st minute. Schilte-Brown said the team was rattled by the atmosphere.
“It was our first home opener,” she said. “We are a young squad. There was a lot of stress for them to play well in front of these fans, and we felt that in the first half.”
Gina Pacheco gave the home crowd a reason to cheer late in the game, however.
The freshman midfielder took advantage of a defensive lapse by the Hatters and scored her first career goal with seconds left in regulation.
“That goal was just hard work,” Pacheco said. “We were battling and the crowd helped us to get that goal in the net.”
USF and Stetson played two 10-minute halves of overtime, but couldn’t find any offense. The game ended in a 1-1 tie.
USF hosted another overtime game Sunday against Illinois State, defeating the Redbirds 3-2. The game had four lead changes in a span of 30 minutes.
“It was great to have all the fans out here,” said midfielder Noelle Pineiro, who had a goal and an assist. “I really feel that I’m starting to gel with the team, so if was a good weekend.”
The Bulls moved to 3-1-1 on the year, and will host Marquette and Florida Atlantic at the USF Soccer Stadium this weekend. Marquette will be the first Big East opponent of the season, and Schilte-Brown is hoping the fans turn out again.
“It’d be nice to see another large crowd,” she said. “It’s Big East competition, so we will be focusing real hard for Marquette.”