It’s a new year, new conference and a new season for the USF women’s soccer team as it opened the 2013-14 season over the weekend.
The Bulls (1-0-1) split the weekend with a 1-1 tie on Sunday against the University of Texas at Austin Longhorns and 7-0 blowout victory against Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions in front of a record-breaking crowd of 1,193 fans on Friday night.
Junior forward Demi Stokes said it was a privilege to play in front of a record-breaking crowd.
“It’s always good to play in front of young girls who aspired to be like us,” Stokes said. “It’s always a privilege.”
Junior midfielder Sarah Miller, who maneuvered her way around two defenders and keeper Abby Smith, scored the only goal for the Bulls on a pass from Stokes for her first goal of the season to tie the game. The Longhorns scored the first goal of the game in the 63rd minute.
Unlike the game on Sunday, it took the team a minute and seven seconds to score its first goal of the season against the Golden Lions when Stokes
netted in a goal with assists coming from Olivia Chance and Sharla Passariello.
Newcomers Victoria Abnathy and freshman Jana Spengler were among 25 players who had a chance to play last night. Spengler also scored a goal.
“It was really good,” coach Denise Schilte-Brown said. “That was the goal of the game — to get minutes for some other players and to have balance to the schedule, gain some confidence and hit the back of the net. I think the girls handled themselves with class.”
With changes to the roster and conference, Schilte-Brown, entering her seventh season with the team, said she’s excited about the changes.
“I feel great about it,” she said. “It challenged every sport differently and affected them differently, positively or negatively. For us, it was positive. Our strength of schedule, I believe, has improved. It was good and we’re real happy.”
USF comes into the season with 11 new players, 10 being freshman including redshirt freshman Abnathy who transferred from Florida State University.
Schilte-Brown said the new group of freshman is her fastest class “ever.”
“They bring a lot of intelligence and experience. They’re very technical, but I don’t think I brought a fast class overall,” Schilte-Brown. “We’re still growing in how we can use this speed because we knew we recruited great athletes and they were fast, but having all together once they got here, it was very eye opening the actual speed we brought in.”
She also said her team’s speed will give opponents trouble.
Last season, the Bulls never played a home and road game during the same weekend, but this year, Schilte-Brown decided to play Texas on the road in the same weekend after playing a home game to balance out the strength of the schedule.
She said the freshman felt more prepared for the game against Texas after playing two pre-season games on the road against Florida Gulf Coast University and Mississippi State.
The Bulls will be spending most of their time playing at home with 11 games at Corbett Stadium against No.12 Florida, Middle Tennessee State and Temple with six games on the road against South Carolina and University of Central Florida.
USF will be home this weekend playing the Clemson Tigers on Friday at 6 p.m. and Niagara Purple Eagles on Sunday at 1 p.m.