This year’s version of the USF women’s soccer team (13-5-3) was supposed to be one year away from contention.
Even though the Bulls’ deep run in the Big East tournament ended in a 1-0 loss to West Virginia in Sunday’s championship game in Piscataway, N.J., the Bulls proved they have arrived ahead of schedule and now wait to hear whether they did enough this season to receive an NCAA tournament bid.
“I think the (players’) junior year is the best time to put it all together,” coach Denise Schilte-Brown said, “because it doesn’t always happen in senior year.”
The rematch of a 110-minute scoreless tie between the teams earlier in the season went the same way for much of the title game. Both defenses stood strong with physical play before West Virginia broke through for the game’s only goal in the 82nd minute.
“It was a very physical game – lots of girls going down,” Schilte-Brown said. “Very tough, but the girls fought hard and we’re proud of that.”
Despite the tough defeat, the Bulls’ two victories in this year’s tournament were one more than they had won in their Big East tournament history (one victory in 2009).
On Friday night, the Bulls defeated Marquette (15-5-2) in a rematch of an offensive shootout from earlier in the season.
Junior forward Venicia Reid scored two goals for the Bulls and senior defender Angelique Waller gave the Bulls a 3-2 halftime lead that it wouldn’t surrender with a shot from 25 yards out.
“I think the success is the mark of our progression as a program,” Schilte-Brown said. “We are starting to win games.”
With 13 wins this year, the Bulls are having their best season under Schilte-Brown, topping the previous record of nine.
“I think the girls are proud of themselves, and they were ready for the next step,” Schilte-Brown said, “It means a lot to the program because you want to see growth every year, and I think that’s what we have been seeing. I think this was the next step.”
The deep tournament run also solidified the Bulls’ NCAA tournament position, with an impressive resume making an at-large bid nearly guaranteed. This season, the Bulls have victories over teams ranked 11th (Marquette), 21st (Georgetown) and 59th (Louisville) in RPI.
“We are so excited with how we performed over the season, and it’s a huge opportunity to be playing in the NCAA tournament,” Schilte-Brown said. “Pride doesn’t even describe how I feel for these girls. I love them a lot, and it’s a really special group that we have.”
The bracket for the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament will be released today at 4:30 p.m. live on ESPNU.
“After the Georgetown game, we kind of felt that we had solidified our resume for the NCAAs,” said Schilte-Brown. “We took time to celebrate and appreciate the accomplishment; it’s a very big deal for us.”
The first round of the tournament starts Friday, and the first four rounds will be held at the higher-seeded team’s campus.
“It’s always a dream to get an opportunity to play in the NCAAs,” said sophomore midfielder Taylor Patterson, “and it’s really exciting to get a chance to go far into it.”