In 2003, the USF women’s soccer team was a group of up-and-comers that made a dramatic and improbable run at the Conference USA regular-season title.
In 2004, they came in understandably confident, led by a rock-solid core of senior standouts like goalkeeper Breck Bankester and defender Stacci Sastre, both of whom were named to the C-USA all-third team following the season.Seasoned and experienced, the Bulls seemed to have the tools necessary to make a run at a Conference USA title in 2004.
But unable to find a rhythm in a disruptive season, they were ultimately a group that faltered under the lofty expectations they set themselves that previous season, finishing 5-9-2 overall and 4-6 in C-USA. They missed the C-USA tournament in the program’s final year in the conference and now must prepare for new challenges in the Big East.
As for this year, though, losing streaks, an arrest, and a few pesky hurricanes made it quite a stormy season for the Bulls, whose season ended with a win over Cincinnati on Oct. 31.
“It was disappointing because I was expecting to do a lot better,” senior Tara Escribano said. “We didn’t go where we wanted to go. We were a good enough to accomplish what we set out to.”
Despite the losing record, the 2004 season was not a total loss. After starting with an overall record of 1-6-2, the Bulls ran off three straight conference victories, including two road games at Southern Miss and Tulane, and suddenly found themselves back into the thick of the conference race. But following the Oct. 16 arrest of midfielder Erica Lewis, who at the time was tied for the team-lead in goals, things soon turned sour as USF dropped four straight, subsequently ending a realistic bid to make the playoffs.
“(Lewis) had a big impact on our team and we needed her,” Escribano said. “We had to overcome that and we did the best we could. We wished she could have been there.”
The 2004 campaign started with a 0-0 home tie versus Stetson, a result that proved to be prophetic as the remainder of the season featured a solid, stingy defense coupled with an offense that was at times prone to stall.
Seven times USF failed to score a goal in a game and only twice, in wins over Southern Miss and Memphis, did it score at least three in a game. Junior Katie Reed, who was named to the C-USA all-second team, led the team with three goals as the Bulls finished with 15 team goals on the season.
“More offense is definitely something we’re going after in recruiting,” coach Logan Fleck said.
Claiming he has put the 2004 season in the rear-view, Fleck now has his eyes set on two words: Big East.
“Right now we’re working very hard and non-stop to get to the Big East level,” Fleck said. “We’re getting ready to rock and roll and I can’t be more excited about it.”
Compiled by John Calkins and Mark Lennox