Two losses end Bulls’ chances at a second straight postseason

Defender Jeannette Dyer sat at midfield with tears streaming down her face after the game ended. Coach Denise Schilte-Brown walked over to console her as she lay on the USF soccer stadium’s turf.

That moment essentially summed up the emotions after the 1-0 loss South Florida suffered Friday night to the Pittsburgh Panthers — ending the Bulls’ hopes for a postseason appearance.

“I just told her that in my years of coaching I’ve never looked back on one game or one moment as a highlight for me,” Schilte-Brown said. “It’s always been about relationships. I know she wanted to lead this team to the postseason, but her legacy will move on.”

Dyer, defender Melanie Sutherland and midfielder Ashley Seib — all seniors — saw their USF careers come to a close this weekend, with the Bulls losing two games. Dyer said she’s proud of what they’ve done at the program.

“I can’t say I’m disappointed with what we’ve done,” she said. “I mean, I’m not ready to move on, but it’s been a lot of fun.”

The Bulls (7-8-3, 3-6-1 Big East) and the Panthers were seemingly in a playoff game, with the winner awarded a spot in the Big East championship tournament. The Bulls took a hit early when Pitt junior Ashley Habbel capitalized on a pass inside the USF defense. She took the ball and powered a low shot past junior keeper Mallori Lofton-Malachi in the ninth minute.

Despite the goal, Schilte-Brown said USF still had chances to win the game.

“You should be able to win despite giving up a bad goal like that,” she said.

Perhaps the best chance for USF came off the right foot of Dyer. In the 80th minute, with the game slipping away, she took a free kick nearly 25 yards from the goal. Dyer beat the keeper, but also the crossbar, as the ball sailed inches over the goal. Dyer’s shot was the last chance the Bulls had to save their season.

However, Schilte-Brown said she felt good about the way her team has played this year.

“I’m just disappointed,” she said. “This is a great group of girls, and it’s tough to think that we won’t be seeing postseason play.”

USF, with 25 underclassmen on the squad, depended on senior leadership this year. Dyer, who made her 57th and 58th career starts this weekend, said she was hoping things would end differently. USF lost its last five games of the season, including a 2-0 loss to West Virginia on Sunday.

“I think we worked really hard throughout the season,” she said. “I can’t wait to watch this team grow. It was disappointing to finish out the season with all those losses and to not make it to the Big East championships. In the end we knew that not making it was the biggest disappointment.”

Schilte-Brown said she couldn’t be more proud of her seniors.

“They’ve been so mature through this process,” she said. “They have their whole lives in front of them. They are so smart and so put together. Although this door is closing on them, there are so many more about to open.”