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Logan’s heroes

Women’s soccer coach Logan Fleck has broken down to tears when saying goodbye to graduating athletes.

He has gotten to know several in his nearly 20 years of coaching at the college level.

After his team was eliminated from the Conference USA tournament last season, Fleck had to say goodbye to Rachel Thjomoe.

And when he said farewell to the left winger, the Bulls’ only graduating senior, his thoughts immediately shifted to the six girls who would play their last games at USF this fall.

“The only thing I am certain of is when the last game is played, the seniors can’t come back. I’m certain of that. A time-ticking sound has been going in my head that has been going off since the last game,” Fleck said.

But Fleck only knows one way to deal with losing six players he has grown with for years at USF.

He gets focused.

“You live and breath with these kids,” he said. “I don’t want to send Tara Escribano (defender) home without a ring. I’d love Stacci Sastre (defender), more than anything, to have a ring, (midfielder) Christine Koester to get a ring, Breck Bankester (goalkeeper).

“I have rings. It won’t change my life. What will change my life will be that I have to feel self-satisfied that when I hug those seniors on the last time they are going to play for me, that I will feel that I have given an effort that was everything I had.”

In his years with USF, Fleck has been coach of the year and won regular season conference championships with both the men and women’s teams. He even won the C-USA tournament with the men in 1996.

Yet, the one thing he doesn’t have is a conference tournament win on the women’s side with the ring that accompanies the honor.

“The only thing that would complete that deck for me would be to go through and win that championship,” he said. “But that is not a personal thing for me. It isn’t. It is a personal thing for me that I will go to bed and put my head on the pillow and have to live with whatever the results are for these kids that have been with me for four years.”

With Thjomoe’s departure the Bulls lose a player who started in all but one game and who scored three goals last season.

But what they will lose most is team leadership.

With six seniors next year and three-year starting junior Katie Reed, Fleck hopes he has the leadership in place for another winning season.

Incoming: The Bulls bring back all but one starter from last year’s team that had been one win away from a regular season C-USA championship.

Besides the starters, seven newcomers will fight for playing time.

Fleck added three Division I transfer athletes in the off-season as well as four incoming freshmen.

Transfers Erica Lewis (FSU), Megan Morton (Ole Miss) and Casey Garrett (South Alabama) will be in the mix for starting positions immediately.

And Fleck has high hopes for the four freshmen that will join the team in August.

2004 Schedule: USF released its 2004 schedule last month.

Besides a tough C-USA schedule, it is highlighted by a trip to FSU against a Seminole club that made the final four of the NCAA championship a year ago.

USF dropped a home match to FSU last year 3-0.

This is USF’s last chance to earn C-USA honors since the team will move to the Big East in 2005.