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USF women’s soccer team earns a berth in the BEC

The USF women’s soccer team has earned a berth in the Big East Conference (BEC) tournament for the first time in school history – despite being on the heels of a season-high five-game winless streak.

With their scoreless double-overtime tie Sunday, the Bulls ended the season with enough conference points to lock up the fifth and final seed in the American Division of the BEC.

USF’s season took a major hit Friday, when the team suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the West Virginia Mountaineers. The Bulls faced a stiff WVU defense, and failed to attempt a single shot during the entire game for the first time this season. Sophomore goalkeeper Mallori Lofton-Malachi made six saves in 90 minutes, but allowed two early goals, which put USF behind early in the game.

USF also saw several young players with more minutes than usual. Coach Denise Schilte-Brown was pleased with the way the younger teammates played in a road conference game.

“We played a really hard-fought game,” Schilte-Brown said in a press release. “A lot of the ladies who hadn’t seen many minutes this season stepped up and did great for us.”

The Bulls had to battle for their postseason lives when they traveled to Pittsburgh to play the Panthers. The Bulls needed at least a tie and a Syracuse loss in order to clinch the final spot in the BEC tournament.

Both the Bulls and Panthers began the game aggressively on offense. Both teams managed four shot attempts in the first half, but neither team could find the net. Lofton-Malachi had another solid game for the Bulls. She made seven saves in 110 minutes – one save shy of matching her season-high.

“Mallori (Lofton-Malachi) played outstanding,” Schilte-Brown said in a press release. “Today was probably her best game of the season. She showed tremendous leadership for the team.”

After the double overtime draw, the Bulls had to get some help from the Connecticut Huskies, who were playing Syracuse. After the Orange lost 2-0, the Bulls advanced to their first Big East tournament in their three years in the conference.

“We are very excited to make school history today,” Schilte-Brown said in a press release. “The ladies’ goal going into today’s game at Pitt was to make the Big East tournament, and we did that.”

During conference play, points are awarded based on the outcome of the game. A team that wins earns three conference points. Each team is awarded one point for a draw, and a loss nets a team zero points. USF and Syracuse – who were tied for the fifth and final seed in the American Division of the Big East Conference – had 11 points each. USF held the head-to-head tiebreaker, after defeating the Orange 1-0 on Oct. 12 in Tampa. So, despite a 4-9-3 record on the season, USF had enough conference points to squeak into the postseason.