USF doubly motivated

A win tonight will give the USF women’s soccer team and coach Logan Fleck their first regular season Conference USA title in five years. But more than that, the Bulls want to win for the last time at home with senior Rachel Thjomoe.

The Bulls will take on UAB for the Conference USA regular season Championship at the USF soccer stadium tonight at 5.

Fleck said that it means more for him to win for Thjomoe’s last game than for the conference championship, a statement that shows the positive attitude the team has embraced along with its strong sense of unity.

“This team has become close. They are good friends, and they’re going to keep themselves together,” Fleck said.

The Bulls (8-6-2, 6-2-1 C-USA) have a chance to win their first conference championship since 1998, their only C-USA title to date.

Playing for the conference title is a surprise to many after USF was picked in a preseason coaches’ poll to finish 10th. Fleck has said all year that he doesn’t mind being picked 10th, but that he just wants to take away the zero in the number 10 and finish No. 1.

Thjomoe said she has not thought much about the fact that it’s her last game because she has been caught up in the race for the conference title.

“It’s going be weird not being a part of this team anymore. I’m a little nervous but I’m really ready to go out hard because I want to finish strong. The chance that we put ourselves in that we can actually win conference is such a motivator right now,” Thjomoe said.

Thjomoe, majoring in finance, plans to graduate in the summer of 2004. The forward grew up in Oslo, Norway, and plans to return home sometime after graduating. She said it will be hard moving back because of the number of people she has come to know while playing soccer in the United States.

USF goalkeeper Breck Bankester said playing with Thjomoe for the last time at home has been on her mind.

“There are two things that we’re playing for. We’re playing to win and we’re playing for (Thjomoe) and to show her that we’re happy that she was on the team,” Bankester said. “I wouldn’t want to walk off the field tomorrow night with a loss, knowing it’s Rachel’s last home game.”

If the Bulls beat UAB (12-4, 7-2 C-USA) and DePaul loses to St. Louis, they will be outright C-USA champions. If DePaul and USF both win, they share the title.

Fleck said UAB is a tough team and it will take all the Bulls have to beat them.

“There is no doubt that they are one of the top teams in the conference. I’m very honest with my players and (I told them) it’s going to take a very special effort on our part,” Fleck said.

If the Bulls are going to win, they are going to have to do it without Katie Reed, one of the best players on the team, Fleck said. He couldn’t comment on the nature of her absence, but said it had nothing to do with any kind of disciplinary action.