The young USF women’s soccer team took another step in the right direction during the weekend, tying Florida International 2-2 Friday night and beating conference opponent Houston 1-0 Sunday. The win against the Cougars leaves USF just one win short of a tie for first place in Conference USA.
The game-winner against the Cougars, freshman Jessica Zabel’s first collegiate goal, came with only 12 minutes remaining.
“That’s a game-winning goal,” Coach Logan Fleck said. ” What is bigger than a game-winning goal?”
Zabel’s debut goal came from a long pass from midfielder Jenny Mulvihill. The freshman, who was making a run down the sideline, collected Mulvihill’s pass 40 yards from the goal with no one between her and the net except Houston goalkeeper Sarah Webster.
Zabel charged toward the goal and fired a low shot out of Webster’s reach into the left corner of the net.
“She slotted the ball right into the corner just like you’re supposed to do,” Fleck said. “I’ve seen her do it in high school, but that goal is worth 10 goals in high school because of the quickness of that keeper, who (was) playing very well. But it was really a great ball by (Mulvihill) and a classic, great finish by Zabel.”
Once the Bulls got the lead, goalkeeper Breck Bankester was able to shut the door on Houston’s few scoring chances.
“Breck is one of the best keepers in the conference on balls that are crosses,” Fleck said.
With just under two minutes remaining in the game, Houston had the ball inside USF’s 18-yard box when a Cougar player skied a shot that looked as if it would go over Bankester’s head, but the goalkeeper jumped in the air and snatched the ball as it neared the crossbar.
Coach Fleck said midfielder Katie Reed was the star of the game. Reed has contributed two goals and a pair of assists this season, although much of her work on the field doesn’t show up in the statistics, the coach said. Reed has had to fill in for the star and leading scorer of last year’s team, Tia Opliger.
“As a sophomore, there has been a lot put on her back,” Fleck said. “I don’t know where she is getting it from, but she is playing so hard every game. She is like the iron woman for us. She just absolutely comes out and does the job.”
“I always play hard no matter what,” Reed said. “I’m just glad we won. We worked for it.”
USF ties FIU in 2OT
Jenny Mulvihill supplied all of USF’s offense Friday, scoring two goals in less than two minutes in the tie with FIU. Jenny Mulvihill headed both scores in off corner kicks from Christine Koester. The Bulls went up 2-0 but were unable to hold the lead as FIU scored two late goals. In overtime, Fleck decided to give bench players some playing time since the game had no bearing on USF’s conference record.
“Once we got to overtime I really wanted to have all the players that could play, play a little bit,” Fleck said.
Injuries continue to pile up
Good play from Reed and goals from young players like Zabel have been necessary for USF to win, as injuries continue to plague the Bulls. Just as sweeper Tara Escribano received clearance from doctors to play after she fractured her right arm, USF lost sophomore Mindy Mulvihill and junior Lyndrea Sutherland to injury. Mindy Mulvihill has sat out the past two games with an ankle injury, and Sutherland recently injured her knee.
Sutherland, who rooms with Escribano, joked about their recent misfortune.
“Tara (Escribano) is my roommate and (because her arm is hurt and my leg is hurt) I do her hair and she washes my feet.”
The recent injuries add to the list of injured players, including Berna Breirem, who has only seen action in one game this season, and Michelle Buskey, who has been out the entire season.