Bulls begin conference play

Last year, the South Florida women’s soccer team had four wins. After six games in 2008, the Bulls are just one win away from that total (3-1-2) as they begin Big East Conference play this weekend.

USF will host the Marquette Golden Eagles on Friday at 7:30 p.m., and the Florida Atlantic Owls on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Coach Denise Schilte-Brown said it’s important for the team to have a good start in the Big East.

“It’s very important to get off on the right foot,” she said. “The season is split into two different sections, pre-conference games and conference games. We are evaluating our strengths and weaknesses even harder because of conference play starting.”

The Bulls are coming off a tie with Stetson and a 3-2 overtime win over Illinois State last weekend.

Freshman forward Chelsea Klotz had two goals against Illinois State — including the game winner — and was named soccerfla.com’s Player of the Week.

“The team is really clicking right now,” Klotz said. “We are working hard every day, trying to get better. To be able to match our win total already from last year would be great this early in the season.”

Klotz said that the team is focusing more on defense, however.

“We need to come out together and be on the same page,” she said. “Our attacking is working great, but we need to focus more on the defensive end. We need to help each other out and be more physical.”

The Golden Eagles started the season by winning four of their first five games. They’ve lost two straight games, however, and didn’t score in either.

The Owls are 1-3-0 and struggling offensively as well. They are being outshot 45 to 29 by their opposition.

Even with those offensive struggles, Schilte-Brown said the Bulls were preparing a strong defense for the weekend.

“We are picking it up physically,” she said. “There have been times through the season where we were backing off on tackles. So we are focusing a lot on defensive physicality, especially with Big East competition looming.”

With 21 newcomers to the team, the Bulls were predicted to finish last in the Big East. USF is fourth place in the American division going into Friday’s Big East opener.

Schilte-Brown said she believes the pre-season talk had no effect on her team.

“I honestly don’t think this team went into the season thinking they were underdogs,” she said. “We have a confident group of young women. They are improving each week. Their life is day to day right now, the chemistry is better than ever, and we are ready for Marquette this Friday.”