After losing several of its seniors from last season, the USF women’s soccer team had a void to fill.
With players such as Kayla Bala, Alexandra “Boo” Eagle, Taylor Patterson and several others gone after putting so many minutes into each game, it left the team worried and unsure of the future.
That’s when the spring season came in.
“They (the seniors) started a lot and played a lot, so I think there was a lot of ‘what is going to happen next?’” Passariello said. “I think we showed this spring that that wasn’t a problem.”
With wins over teams such as Florida and FGCU, having only lost to UCF, the Bulls showed that the loss of the seniors didn’t slow them down, finishing the spring season at 4-1-1.
“I saw a lot of growth, probably more so from a team aspect, but I think we saw more growth this spring than all the springs we’ve been here so far,” associate coach Chris Brown said. “There was so much focus from the girls and it just got better as the spring went on.”
Last season’s performance in which the Bulls finished 16-6-5 overall and 6-2-2 in the Big East isn’t going to be easy to top going into next season, but nice weather wasn’t the only thing that came with spring as it also brought with it a strength for USF — its depth.
“Showing the kind of depth we had this spring after losing some key players, because we lost some really key seniors, I think that aspect of it was a nice surprise,” Brown said. “We always knew we would compete, but going out and getting the results against some of the teams we did was a really good thing and it was a confident booster for the girls.”
It started Feb. 24 when the Bulls were tied with Florida State, a team which finished 20-4 last season and was ranked No. 4 in the nation.
“After the FSU game you (could) see our confidence,” Passariello said.
In April, after their one loss to the Knights, the Bulls went on to win 1-0 over the Gators. Florida finished 19-5 last season and were ranked No. 8.
Worries soon faded, as USF proved it can compete with top teams.
“Clearly they (the team) showed this spring that they can compete with anyone in the country,” Brown said.
The win over FGCU would mark the end of the exhibition season for the Bulls, leaving the players to fill their summers with workouts, training or playing with amateur soccer teams. With no more practices left for the players, the choice is theirs.
“We’re done with spring now and we don’t have any more training sessions with them,” Brown said. “The trick is to have contact with them over the summer periodically and make sure they remember the things we’ve been working on tactically so they don’t lose that focus.”
Passariello said she doesn’t plan on losing any focus.
“I’m going home for two weeks, but then I’m coming back and training,” she said.
Overall, the coaches said they were more than pleased with the way the Bulls performed in the spring. With losing seniors, having players who once didn’t get much playing time now seeing the field more, one would expect a new type of team, but they say that isn’t the case.
“I think that our team from the fall is very similar to what we’ve done in the spring,” Brown said. “This spring team was kind of a growing image of what transpired in the fall and I mean that in a great way.”
Brown said he looks at the spring season and sees their goal coming together.
“Our goal is to make sure our team gets to a point where we can continue a certain level of success for not just one year and drop out,” Brown said. “We want to maintain that.”
What once was a feeling of worry now is a sense of enthusiasm.
“I think there is a level of excitement,” Brown said. “I don’t want to say the expectations are high now because we don’t want to put that label on the girls, but their level of excitement coming into next fall has got to be quite high.”
The Bulls still have a class of incoming freshman to look forward to, and with the way the Bulls played in the spring, they may experience more success come fall.
“I think we will do better than last season,” Passarielllo said. “Everyone is planning to work hard this summer.”