Moments after faltering on the national stage in one of the most crucial situations of her college career, USF senior midfielder Olivia Chance stood before her teammates and apologized.
The Bulls had just been eliminated by Connecticut in the AAC championship game, falling to the Huskies 3-2 in penalty kicks. Chance, the team’s leading scorer with nine goals — including three game-winners — had been halted during her final attempt with an opportunity to tie it on a diving stop by keeper Emily Armstrong to hand UConn the title.
Though the loss wasn’t entirely on her shoulders, the New Zealand native felt like the burden of responsibility was hers.
“I’ll always take what I do wrong and I took that on the chin,” Chance said.
More than 10 months after that harrowing November afternoon at Corbett Stadium, the Bulls, who debuted Tuesday at No. 24 in the NSSC poll, will have an opportunity to earn some redemption when they host the No. 20 Huskies in Thursday’s conference opener.
As much as they would probably like to brush it aside as just another game, it’s clear the opposite is true.
“This is a game that we’ve been waiting for since we started,” Chance said. “I can’t wait to get out there and get a bit of revenge.”
Chance, who is eighth all-time in career goals at USF, is off to her best start with six goals in nine games.
Though she is a natural lefty, Chance has put in additional time to utilize her right foot more often, especially when it comes to pulling the trigger on shots on net.
That could help USF take advantage of more scoring opportunities against UConn, something Chance said it desperately needed in the AAC final.
The Bulls managed to get 17 shots on goal during regulation — including one by Leticia Skeete that banged off the post in the 21st minute — but couldn’t find the back of the net.
“We just need to put goals away when we have opportunities. Last time, we didn’t,” Chance said. “We had at least two or three great opportunities that we should have finished last year and we didn’t.”
Coach Denise Schilte-Brown, who has led USF (7-1-1) to its best start since 1998, said from what she’s seen on film, UConn is much better than last season. The Huskies were picked by AAC coaches during the preseason to repeat as conference champs again this season.
“Interestingly, I think they’re very different,” Schilte-Brown said. “You would think that they return a lot of seniors, they return their key player (junior forward Rachel Hill), yet when I watch them, I don’t think it’s the same team.
“They’re definitely a little bit more organized — a little less direct … so, I think it’s a better UConn team, but I think we’re a better USF team.”
With a keen veteran presence and experience carried over from last season’s squad, Chance said the team expects success, regardless of its opponent.
“I want to win,” she said. “It’s pretty simple. To finish off my four years here … we all want to win, even the (freshmen).”
If there is one thing Schilte-Brown hopes Chance doesn’t do against the Huskies, it’s to dwell on the past negatively.
“I don’t want (Chance) to harbor too much of those feelings,” Schilte-Brown said. “Can it fuel you with energy? Can you want the ball a little bit more? Are you going to tackle a little bit harder? You can remember it for those purposes.”
Chance is confident her mind is clear.
“I think my attitude is really good for when you suffer something that can break you like when I missed the penalty,” Chance said. “I’ll always take that. But it doesn’t mean my career is finished.”
USF vs. Connecticut
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Where: Corbett Stadium
TV: American Digital Network