USF wins opener, loses at No. 7 Florida

The Bulls continued their strong start to the season after splitting two opening weekend matches.

After going undefeated in preseason play, USF (1-1-0) defeated FAU (1-2-0) 1-0 Friday in front of a record 787 people to open the regular season. USF led No. 7 Florida Sunday but eventually fell 2-1 in Gainesville.

The FAU match was scoreless at halftime, but USF struck quickly after the break. Just eight minutes into the second half, sophomore Noelle Pineiro chipped in the game-winner from 15 yards out.

FAU brought pressure after Pineiro’s strike, but the USF defense, led by senior goalkeeper Mallori Lofton-Malachi, held on. Lofton-Malachi had three saves in what was her 14th career shutout.

“It’s really good to just have a win under our belt,” Lofton-Malachi said.

The Bulls played aggressively in the opener, while FAU seemed timid, said USF coach Denise Schilte-Brown.

“(FAU) plays a low-pressure system, but it’s not a high scoring opportunity system,” she said. “Once you go down, you have to change, and they just floated in between (changing strategies or not).”

Against the No. 7 Gators (3-0-0), who the Bulls have never beaten, USF took an early lead on another Pineiro goal, this one just 35 seconds before the break.

“(Scoring two goals) feels good, but I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” Pineiro said.

However, Florida scored twice in the second half. UF’s Lauren Hyde scored on a 25-yard free kick, and midfielder Tahnai Annis put the Gators ahead after she deflected a shot past Lofton-Malachi.

USF starts a three-match home stretch that includes contests against Florida international and Louisiana State. USF will host FIU on Friday.