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USF will try to stay unbeaten in conference play

This weekend could prove to be pivotal for the USF women’s soccer team’s hopes of getting into the post season.

A pair of victories will give the Bulls five conference wins, one more than they had last year when they entered the eight-team Conference USA tournament field as the seventh ranked team.

USF’s season got off to a rocky start, winning only one of its first four matches. The young Bulls squad, with 11 freshmen and eight sophomores, turned it on when it counted most and have gone 4-1-1 in their last six, 3-0-1 in conference play.

The Bulls enter the weekend in second place in C-USA as they travel to Tulane for Friday’s match at 6 p.m., and then head to Hattiesburg, Miss., to face Southern Miss Sunday at 1 p.m.

Tulane (7-3-1, 3-1-0) is in a four-way tie for third place in C-USA and would pass USF for second with a win over the Bulls. The Green Wave has won five out of its last six matches, outscoring opponents 14-5 in that stretch. Tulane has not allowed a goal in its last three matches.

Southern Miss (7-3-2, 0-3-1) awaits the Bulls with a good overall record, although the Eagles have struggled in conference play and are still looking for their first conference win. The Eagles lost to East Carolina 4-0 and Louisville 1-0, whom USF tied 1-1 and beat 2-1 respectively. Southern Miss tied Charlotte, a team the Bulls easily beat 3-1. The Lady Eagles play well at home though, boasting a 4-1-1 record at the USM Soccer Complex.

With such a young team losing its top three scorers from a year ago and a number of players this year to injury, coach Logan Fleck has been looking for someone to lead his team. Sophomore Katie Reed appears to be doing just that. The midfielder leads the team with two goals and a pair of assists. Reed was selected to the All C-USA Freshmen Team after she played in every game last season. This year she is taking charge on the field and becoming very vocal, which Fleck said he likes.

Holding down the defense is junior Stacci Sastre. After sweeper Tara Escribano got hurt earlier in the year, Sastre has had a lot of pressure to perform well and is doing so as the Bulls have given up only five goals in four games since Escribano’s absence. Sastre even scored a goal earlier in the season in double overtime to defeat Stetson 1-0.

Pre-season All C-USA selection Breck Bankester continues to play well between the posts. Bankester leads C-USA in saves (66) and has recorded two shutouts this season at Stetson and home against Cincinnati.