The stage was set and USF had the home field advantage against the No. 9 Florida Gators with steady drizzle throughout the match.
Cheers and jeers could be heard from a record crowd of 1,204 fans made of Gators (6-1-1) and Bulls alike in what would end in a 1-1 draw.
The USF men’s soccer team even showed their support behind USF’s goal.
USF (4-1-3) struck the first blow seven minutes in to get fans going.
With an assist from junior midfielder Sarah Miller, senior forward Sharla Passariello came in fast through the left side of the box to tap in a goal that would make for USF’s first and only shot of the first half.
It was the Gators who didn’t answer back until 15 minutes into the second half but controlled possession of the ball for most of the match.
But even with possession and the six shots the Gators took in the first half, 20 by the end of the match to the Bulls’ eight, Florida couldn’t manage to capitalize on most of its opportunities against USF sophomore goalkeeper Christiane Endler.
USF coach Denise Schilte-Brown, in spite of playing against a Top 10 team, said she doesn’t get worried when the other team approaches
“She’s such a good keeper that I expect it now,” Schilte-Brown said. “I don’t get nervous when the ball comes around. They have to create one heck of a good opportunity to score against us.”
That opportunity was finally created when, in the 75th minute of play, Florida junior midfielder Havana Solaun got the ball past Endler, who slammed the ball to the grass in frustration.
“We always want to win,” Endler said. “We have to improve in the last minutes of the game, that’s when they scored. I think we played a really good game against a really good team. We fought to the end.”
Schilte-Brown said that’s when the Bulls, who up until that point were on top of the Gators in every opportunity they had to score, began to not look like the team that held a 1-0 lead for most of the game.
“I was really proud of my team, it was an unfortunate goal that we gave up,” Schilte-Brown said. “I’d like to see us rebound better after our goal. I felt like the soccer that we played leading up to our goal was very good and we had enough momentum to score more. After (Florida) scored, we had less timing and composure on the ball and were more frantic.”
After the Gators’ goal and regulation was over, as the match headed into its first period of overtime, the ball would find itself stuck between a rock and a hard place going back and fourth with both teams struggling to find the back of the net.
This was surprising for a Gator team that has been leaning on the play from their freshman forward Savannah Jordan, who has eight goals in the past three games, consisting of two two-goal games preceded by a hat trick.
Miller, though pleased with the team effort against a tough team, said she still wanted the win.
“They’re a Top 10 team, so it’s going to look OK on our record but I would have liked to come out with a win. I think we played hard and I’m proud of us,” Miller said
Miller went on to say the Bulls should be up in the rankings with the Gators.
“We should be ranked in the Top 10,” Miller said. “I think we’re capable; we’re skilled and have the fitness. That’s what we’re shooting for this season.”
Miller and the Bulls will continue to shoot for the Top 10 on Friday at 7:30 p.m. where USF will take on South Alabama (6-0-1).