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Bulls host tourney, pay tribute

Women’s soccer opened its season Friday and Saturday with the Mark Dafeldecker Classic and marked a new beginning in the program’s 10-year history.

Coach Logan Fleck said he was grateful to have named the event after Dafeldecker, who served as an honorary coach last season and died after suffering a stroke in September 2005.

“I’m really happy we were able to do this. We’ve been trying to get a home tournament for three years,” Fleck said. “(Dafeldecker) was a major influence on our team, the community and youth soccer. He encouraged performance on the field and in the classroom.”

During the tournament, junior Lindsay Brauer dominated. The forward scored five goals and had an assist leading to a pair of 4-0 victories against High Point University from North Carolina and the University of South Alabama.

“Our team is really beginning to solidify off the field,” Fleck said. “This team really enjoys each others’ company. We are trying to set a new standard for our team.”

In the match against High Point, USF’s first goal of the season came off a free kick in which three Bulls beat seven defenders, enabling Brauer to find the back of the net. During play, Brauer routinely broke through the High Point defense, and every shot attempt on goal resulted in a score.

During the game against South Alabama Brauer scored three goals, midfielder Michelle Buskey recorded two assists and midfielder Autumn Browning recorded two assists and two goals.

“(Brauer) has made a huge difference on our team. We played on a club team before, and I’m glad we’re on the same team again,” Browning said. “We know each other better off the field, and that has helped us have success on the field.”

The Bulls sealed the victory against the Jaguars when Buskey chased down a ball on the outside, sent a cross kick to the center of the field and found Browning for the goal.

“That was a beautiful goal. Every goal is great, but that one stood out,” Fleck said. “It was the best goal of the tournament, and that is what we expect from each other. It doesn’t get any better than that. I was really smiling after that one.”

Senior goalkeeper Casey Garrett notched her seventh and eighth career shutouts over the weekend. The new offense dominated ball control and field position as Garrett only had to stop eight shots during the two victories.

Bonding with one another was a goal set early in the off-season. Fleck said his squad is so close, they know everything about each other from favorite colors and foods to the type of music they listen to.

“People’s attitudes have changed a lot,” Buskey said. “We all have one goal in mind, and that’s team unity. We’re getting into a rhythm, and I knew that (Browning) was going to be standing in that spot. We’ve practiced that quite a bit.”

Sharing the ball was the main reason the Bulls prevailed. Of the eight goals scored during the tournament, only two went unassisted.

“We have a lot of good individuals, and it’s nice to see us becoming a truly good team,” Fleck said. “Does it really matter who scores the goals? No. A good pass or a defensive stop sometimes can be just as important as a goal. And this team is learning that.”

The tournament was especially significant for Erin Dafeldecker, daughter of Mark. The senior was proud of her team’s performance and thankful for her father’s remembrance.

“My mother, brother and myself are so honored,” Dafeldecker said. “USF has been so supportive of us. It is so special.”

Not only was Dafeldecker a fixture for USF women’s soccer, he was an influence on many of the players lives for years.

“He coached a lot of my teammates and saw about half the team grow up,” Dafeldecker said. “He pushed me to be my best and instilled strong values in me and this team. Hopefully our success as a team can make him proud.”