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Bulls’ defense bounces back for victory Sunday

Two days after surrendering 19 shots to Clemson on Friday night, the USF women’s soccer team looked for their second win of the season Sunday against Niagara at USF’s Corbett Soccer Stadium.

Unlike the match against Clemson, which resulted in a tie, the Bulls (2-0-2) handed the winless Purple Eagles (0-4) their fourth loss of the season in a 3-0 victory.

USF’s defense held Niagara to zero shots compared to 20 for the Bulls, seven of which were on goal.

USF coach Denise Schilte-Brown said she was proud of her team’s focus on defense.

“Sometimes you can lose focus when you’re on offense consistently,” Schilte-Brown said. “Sometimes your defense can shut off, so I was real happy with their focus for 90 minutes.”

In addition to their focus, it was the defensive strength that made redshirt freshman forward Victoria Abnathy proud.

“I think our defense was really strong and physical,” Abnathy said. “I think we did well with the first and second balls and supporting our midfielders, especially the outside backs. They did a good job of being an outlet. It just made it a whole lot easier for us to build.”

The Bulls’ defense, along with their speed, controlled the pace of the game and prevented the Purple Eagles from crossing their line, leaving sophomore goalkeepers Christiane Endler and Sydney Drinkwater with zero saves.

The first half started with Niagara defender Haillie Price suffering an injury in the first minute of the game.

For the first 20 minutes, the Bulls’ offense couldn’t find the back of the net before Abnathy scored the first goal of the game, the second goal of the season, after Niagara goalkeeper Olivia Wood deflected a previous shot that bounced into Abnathy’s view.

“I think we were patient and we weren’t forcing the ball,” Abnathy said. “Someone took a shot and I just made a habit of going after the shot and happened to go at the goalkeeper, so it was an easy tap in.”

Then, at the 34th minute, freshman midfielder Aubrey Riggins cross passed to freshman forward Anehza Blount for the header for her first goal of the season to put the Bulls up 2-0. Riggins was credited with the assist.

The second half saw the Bulls continue to dominate Niagara with their quick attack and speed. USF scored another goal when junior midfielder Cristin Granados scored from midfield.

All three goals for the Bulls were scored by players in their first year with the program. Schilte-Brown said the team, especially the new players, is showing what it can do.

“I think it’s really exciting to have new players on the board,” Schilte-Brown said. “We talked about how we want to be a team that is threatening from many different people and positions,” Schilte-Brown said.

The Bulls will be back home this weekend to finish the rest of its four-game home stand against Middle Tennessee State on Friday at 7 p.m. and North Florida on Sunday at 6 p.m.