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Positives aplenty for Bulls

Entering Friday’s match against No. 15 Marquette, USF women’s soccer coach Logan Fleck tried to stress the positives to his struggling team, which was on a five-game losing streak.

Following a pair of matches this weekend, the Bulls should have no problem finding plenty of positives.

USF tied Marquette 1-1 Friday, then managed to pick up its fourth win of the season with a 2-1 triumph Sunday against Florida Atlantic.

“We actually made sure that everyone knew that the only thing that mattered was not friends’ comments or parents’ comments, or even the media comments, but what we said in that locker room and that we still believed in ourselves,” Fleck said. “Our thing was are we going to mature with mental toughness where the outside environment is not going to affect us? It’s what we believe inside. It sounds hokey, but it’s what we teach them. In life you’re going to make a lot of decisions that everyone doesn’t agree with. We cannot stop our game, therefore, our player has to grow in confidence and decision making.”

The 15th-ranked Golden Eagles drew first blood early Friday, when a USF defensive miscue led to a goal in the 11th minute. Sophomore goalkeeper Breck Bankester fumbled a ball passed back to her and Marquette’s Ashley Spakowitz pounced on it and drove the ball home from 16 yards out on an open goal to give the Golden Eagles (9-2-1, 3-0-1 in Conference USA) the lead.

“We played soccer at so high a level at Florida State (a 3-2 loss Sept. 22), it was unbelievable,” Fleck said. “We were all over them. We just happened to put ourselves in a hole. The difference against Marquette was that we put ourselves in a hole. Marquette did not score a goal that they earned. It was our unforced error. The goalkeeper tripped over the ball, and their kid capitalized on it and put it in the goal. How we’ve grown as a young team is that that keeper went out and played one of the best games she’s ever played.”

Bankester went on to make seven saves, and the Bulls defense shut down C-USA’s Preseason Player of the Year, Katie Gordon, who was limited to one shot.

USF (4-6-1, 0-3-1) equalized in the 18th minute on a goal by Tia Opliger, and the two sides proceeded to play even soccer for another 92 minutes to earn a tie.

“We didn’t have any respect for Marquette at all,” freshman Berna Breirem said. “When we walked on that field, we had no respect.”

With a rugged 110-minute marathon vs. the No. 15 team in the nation Friday, USF opened Sunday’s match slowly, failing to register a shot until the match was almost 15 minutes old.

Florida Atlantic (6-4) failed to seize any of its chances though, including a two-on-one opportunity for the Owls that goalkeeper Alicia Bostain made a diving save to prevent a FAU goal.

The game seemed destined to be tied at the half, but USF got a breakaway when Rachel Thjomoe fed Katie Reed with a long pass in the midfield. The Owl defender tried to run up on her, and Reed dribbled past her, then deked out the goalie and sunk the ball into a wide open net to push the Bulls in front 1-0 with a minute and 27 seconds to play in the first half.

“You’re not going to see many goals better than that,” Fleck said. “It did everything you want to have. There are the goals where you attack with confidence. The defense had nothing to do. We did everything right, so that we got a good