For those rooting for the freshman-laden USF women’s soccer team Sunday afternoon at Corbett Stadium, early indications were that FIU simply could not match the Bulls; not their intensity, physicality, nor their sheer size.
Despite opening with an early 2-0 lead, relief wouldn’t come until overtime when USF sealed its 3-2 victory over the Panthers on an FIU own goal.
It was 5-foot-10 senior Carlotta Fennefoss whose patience and soft-touch set a controlling tone for the Bulls (2-0) early on. Being Ms. Reliable for the Bulls is nothing new for the defender, known by friends as “Lotta,” as she embraces this responsibility as one of the most seasoned players on the squad.
“That [leadership] is something I’ve worked on a lot. As a center back, it’s kind of something that you have to have,” Fennefoss said. “Also the confidence that I play with, I try to project that onto my team so that they know that when I have the ball, they know what’s going to happen, so that’s how I like to play.”
What stood out most in the game for Fennefoss was not her typical poise as a defender, but her first career goal, which came in the 17th minute in the form of a header into the upper left corner of the net. The assist came from freshman defender Hrafnhildur Hauksdottir.
This goal instantly changed the tone and dynamic of the game, which had been somewhat back-and-forth in the early minutes. Suddenly, the Bulls were on the attack, stifling FIU’s short-lived offensive pushes while repeatedly finding themselves with chances to put shots on goal.
As the student-led group of die-hard soccer fans known as the Goal Mouths roared various chants from the berm behind the FIU goal, momentum was clearly building in the Bulls’ favor.
Then, they struck again a mere eight seconds into the second half.
This time it was senior forward Leticia Skeete, who capitalized on a defensive mishap by FIU, taking the ball and skittering it into the side of the net with a low, well-driven kick delivered by her left foot.
Sitting at 2-0 with the second half ticking down, the Bulls, according to coach Denise Schilte-Brown, let their foot off of the gas. In part, she said she sees it as her responsibility to correct the lack of tempo that resulted in FIU goals in back-to-back minutes, completely sucking the air out of the Bulls’ previously raucous fan base.
“I feel like it was a really good lesson for our girls to learn that you can’t take a break,” Schilte-Brown said.
First, it was senior forward Bria Williams who put the Panthers on the board, after USF goalkeeper Kat Elliott’s diving save ricocheted off of her gloves, leaving an open net for the trailing Williams to add to her goal total in the 55th minute.
If you blinked, you might have missed the Panthers’ second, game-tying goal, which came in the 56th minute on a rocket of a shot by Alyssa Robinson from well outside of the penalty box.
This lapse in focus would ultimately make the game an overtime affair, but Schilte-Brown said she never gave up hope that her squad would end up victorious.
“Going into overtime, I felt their confidence, I felt their desire, they stayed with keeping the ball and didn’t panic,” she said.
They did indeed emerge victorious, scoring on a shot from USF forward Trudi Carter that took a bounce off FIU defender Gudrun Hoskuldsdottir, providing an unlikely ending to the match.
Fennefoss had mixed emotions about the way the Bulls won the game.
“For a defender myself and seeing her it’s awful,” Fennefoss said. “It’s definitely a joy that we won the game. We don’t root for her scoring her own goal, but for us, Trudi was the one that scored the goal, so … we were rooting for Trudi.”