The second-seeded USF women’s soccer team heads to Dallas tonight for its first-round match against Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship tournament. The week-long tournament, held at Southern Methodist’s Westcott Field, runs through Sunday with the title game airing at 5 p.m. on ESPNU. Here are four things to watch for:
There’s a Chance
Outscoring its opponents 33-12, USF has emerged as one of the top offensive teams in the AAC, and senior forward Olivia Chance has been an instrumental part. With eight goals and eight assists, the only unanimous first-team All-Conference selection ranks third in the conference with 16 points.
From the opening match of the season, during which she scored two goals against LIU, Chance has been zeroed in with eyes set on a deep post-season run. Chance has scored nine goals the past two seasons and has a chance to make it three against Memphis. She has been USF’s premiere offensive threat this season and will be leaned on heading into the tournament.
From the beginning of the season, coach Denise Schilte-Brown stressed the importance of the Bulls’ road schedule. She felt her team had the maturity to handle a tough schedule, which included only seven home games, Schilte-Brown said.
Not only did USF show how dangerous it is in Corbett Stadium by finishing with an unblemished 6-0-1 record at home, it proved it was just as dangerous on the road. USF boasts a 6-2-1 record on the road in 2015, including a scoreless tie with No. 8 Clemson. Schilte-Brown said she actually prefers a heavy road schedule, which she said minimizes distractions.
Chip on Their Shoulder
USF fell in heartbreaking fashion in last year’s AAC championship game at the hands of UConn. After a hard-fought match in regulation and overtime, the championship came down to penalty kicks, where USF fell short. Since that match, the team has had its sights set on avenging that loss. Coming into the season, the goal was to beat UConn in the regular season. With that feat accomplished, the mindset is to head into the NCAA tournament with a title — and momentum.
All Signs Point to UConn
USF may get all of its goals rolled into one as the Huskies and Bulls enter the tournament as favorites to meet again in the finals. Connecticut won the regular season title with its lone loss coming off Simpson’s foot. UConn finished with a 16-2 record overall and felt little resistance from its competition.
The Huskies finished first in the AAC, averaging just over 17 shots per game and just one spot behind USF with only 13 goals allowed. UConn’s road to the finals goes through East Carolina first before playing the winner of Cincinnati and Tulsa if they advance. USF plays the winner of Central Florida and Temple if they advance.