The five departing seniors on the USF women’s soccer team said goodbye Sunday the best way they knew how: with a win.
With seniors Breck Bankester, Tara Escribano, Stacci Sastre, Christine Koester and Laura Tucker playing their last game for USF, the Bulls (6-9-2, 4-6-0 C-USA) topped conference foe Cincinnati 1-0 at the USF Soccer Stadium. Junior midfielder Jenny Mulvihill scored the contest’s only goal in the 16th minute when she headed a high, floating cross from Koester past Bearcat goalkeeper Jen Doerflein.
USF had several near-goals and dominated Cincinnati, out shooting the outmatched Bearcats 23-10.
“We controlled the game,” USF coach Logan Fleck said. “All I did was tell the other players, ‘Win this one for the seniors,’ and you could see it today. We dominated.”
If anything, Sastre said it was a fitting way for the seniors to finish their careers.
“It’s appropriate,” defender Sastre said, “that our last game came here and with a win.”
In her tenure with the Bulls, Sastre was a rock, not missing one game in four seasons. With 69 games played, Sastre ranks fourth on USF’s most-games-played list.
According to senior Breck Bankester, things have truly come full circle for the Bulls seniors.
“We all started our careers here at USF with a shutout win, and we ended it here with a shutout win,” goalkeeper Breck Bankester said. “It was the only way to go out.”
Bankester, the 2003 C-USA Co-Defensive Player of the Year, finishes her career with 14 shutouts and a 1.42 goals against average, the second best average in USF women’s soccer history.
The Bulls would rather still be playing, though, as they believe their season ended prematurely.
USF, which had lost four straight coming into Sunday’s game, failed to make the Conference USA tournament for the first time since 2001.
“Nobody is very happy with the way the season went,” Bankester said. “It’s disappointing to say the least.”
Sastre, who had seven shots versus the Bearcats, agreed.
“We had huge expectations for this team,” she said. “But bad things happen. That’s life.”
One thing all the seniors agreed on was what they will miss the most: each other.
“I’m not going to miss (the game) as much as I’m going to miss (my teammates),” Sastre said. “These girls were the best part of my four years here. They are my sisters and they’ve been with me through the thick and thin.”
Coach Logan Fleck, who is in his 10th season with USF, hates to see this group go.
“I don’t want them to leave. I wouldn’t break NCAA rules but I would love to make one change right now to have those five kids back,” he said. “They’ve been a part of my life for four years. I’ve found them to be very good people. As players they’ve represented the university very well and as people, the university is graduating exemplary student athletes.”