Big win Sunday caps undefeated weekend

The USF women’s soccer team returned from Charlotte undefeated in Conference USA play after opening their tough schedule this weekend. USF defeated Charlotte 3-1 Sunday and tied East Carolina 1-1 Friday.

Beating Charlotte was a big win for the Bulls (2-3-1), who went into the match with a three-game winless streak. USF stepped up at a key time to defeat the defending conference champion 49ers at their home field in Charlotte, giving USF their first conference win this season. USF coach Logan Fleck said he sees his team growing game by game.

“We showed great maturity, determination and effort from a group of young athletes,” Fleck said. “Everyone stepped up to beat a team of this stature.”

Offensive woes the Bulls experienced early in the season evaporated this weekend as they picked up the intensity — getting shots from six different players in each match.

Third-year forward Rachel Thjomoe began the weekend with a goal in Friday’s conference opener and an assist in Sunday’s win. Earlier in the season Thjomoe said she needed to shoot more in order to spark the offense. Thjomoe successfully ignited the offense this weekend as they scored four goals, one more than scored in the first four games combined.

Thjomoe’s assist Sunday came when she crossed a ball to Kristen Danielik, who scored to make the game 3-0 — the largest lead USF has held all season. Earlier goals came from Katie Reed and Jenny Mulvihill. The Pirates (1-7) got a goal back in the second half, preventing goalkeeper Breck Bankester from obtaining her second shutout of the season.

“I was extremely impressed with Bankester’s play this weekend,” Fleck said. “If we can continue to get that effort from her every week, we are going to be a very solid team in this conference.”

The Bulls opened conference play Friday night with a tough 1-1 double-overtime tie at Transamerica Field in Charlotte. The game site was changed because of Hurricane Isabel. Considering the change in venue and travel plans, Fleck said the girls played well.

“I love the fact that our girls showed that they could play with adversity,” Fleck said. “We made several travel adjustments and the girls adapted. Like the passing of the storm, I hope our girls let the first few games go and continue on the path they showed they are capable of today.”

Thjomoe scored her first goal of the season late in the first half Friday. Ashley Quaid set Thjomoe up for the score when she collected a deflection off the ECU goalkeeper in the 44th minute of play.

Along with Thjomoe’s improved offensive play the Bulls defense held ECU scoreless until the 81st minute of play. ECU was able to tie when Rachelle Cabeceiras headed a ball sent in from a corner kick past Bankester. USF then held ECU to one shot in both overtime periods to hang on for the tie. The tie came against a strong conference foe that played extremely tough earlier in the year in a 2-1 loss against the No. 5 Florida Gators. Fleck was impressed even though the girls couldn’t hold on for a win.

“We played well enough to win the game,” Fleck said. “They had to come back just to tie us.”