The USF women’s soccer team’s biggest game of the year turned out to be its last.
Against a Cincinnati defense ranked No. 5 in the nation, the Bulls were held to three shots on goal in a 3-1 loss to the Bearcats in Charlotte, N.C., during the first round of the Conference USA tournament.
The loss ended the season for USF, as the Bulls finished 8-8-2.
Play was back and forth in the first half, with South Florida firing two shots compared to the Bearcats’ seven. Cincinnati got on the board first in the 30th minute off a goal from a corner kick. Junior Rachel Lieberman sent a cross to the near post, and junior Amy Mink planted the ball into the net.
However, their lead would last for a mere 35 seconds as freshman Jenny Mulvihill provided the equalizer. Earning their first corner kick of the game, Bulls’ sophomore Kim Martins swung the ball into the center of the box, where Mulvihill headed home the ball past Bearcats goalkeeper Tracy Hale. It was only the third goal that the Bearcats had given up in the past 13 games. The match remained tied at 1 going into intermission.
Two minutes after the start of the second half, Cincinnati regained the lead after Mink crafted a pass through USF’s defense to senior Amy Simonson, as she one-touched then fired far-post past goalkeeper Breck Bankester for her eighth goal of the year.
With 18 minutes remaining, the Bulls nearly equalized once again. Freshman Michelle Buskey, off a throw-in, headed a cross, only to have it cleared by a Cincinnati defender at the near post.
With 30 seconds left to play, USF pushed its entire team up, trying for the game-tying goal. However, a loose ball popped out, and taking advantage of a defensive miscue from Bankester, senior Tianna Oliver sent the ball into the open net to make it 3-1.
With the defeat, USF also lost six graduating seniors: Tia Opliger, Michele Upham, Kristin Scotland, Erin Sharpe, Aleia Long and Alicia Bostain.
Thomas Carrigan covers USF women’s soccer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org