It was a quiet ride home for the USF women’s soccer team last Friday.
The Bulls had just left the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Tournament semifinals, where they played UCF in Orlando for the second time this season.
Instead of suffering a loss, which the Bulls have every time they faced the Knights since the 2008-09 season, UCF was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw.
The Knights (16-2-4), who became the first AAC champions, have only been held scoreless two other times all season — once to FSU Sept. 1 and then against Rutgers in the AAC Championship.
While the bus ride may have been silent, it was far from somber.
“The girls were quiet, but at the same time I think they realized that they played well,” assistant coach Jason Dowiak said. ”I think the biggest thing that we were able to take from the course of the season that game is that we were just getting better and better as the season went on. We defended well as a group and the team just played together well to play a really attractive brand of soccer on Friday.”
Though the soccer played Friday may have been a positive going forward, the match against UCF would be USF’s last of the season.
As of 4:30 p.m. Monday night, the Knights made their way into the NCAA Tournament by clinching the AAC Championship while the Bulls must look toward the years to come. Dowiak sees a change coming in those years, especially with their in-state rivals UCF.
“That’s the first time we’ve gotten a positive result against UCF,” Dowiak said. “I feel like the tide is turning. The rivalry won’t be one-sided anymore.”
Now, it seems the focus for the Bulls is recruiting. Despite losing five seniors going into next season, Dowiak said he and coach Denise Schilte-Brown are pleased with who they have returning to the field.
“Our team is pretty young,” Dowiak said. “We’re looking at returning a very mature and
studious team next year and looking to bring in a couple of transfers and junior college players that can make an impact on the program right away.”
One of those returning players is sophomore goalkeeper Christiane Endler, who made it onto the 2013 All-Conference Second Team. Endler totaled seven saves against a UCF attack that fired off 15 shots in the semifinals.
It was Endler’s eighth shutout of the season.
With players like the Chilean native and more returning in Bulls’ uniforms next year, Dowiak said that he, Schilte-Brown and associate coach Chris Brown can’t help but talk about the future one way or another.
“We talk about it almost every day,” Dowiak said. “What Chris and Denise have done with their time here has been working, and I think we’re going to turn a lot of heads.”
The NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament kicks off this Friday.