The USF women’s soccer team already passed one of its biggest tests in avenging last year’s American Athletic Conference (AAC) tournament final loss to Connecticut by beating the Huskies 1-0 on Sept. 24.
Now comes stage two: knocking off rival Central Florida on Friday night in Orlando.
The No. 18 Bulls (13-2-2, 6-0-1) came into the season with a chip on their shoulder. UCF (10-5-1, 6-2) and UConn were both ranked ahead of them in the preseason polls with the Huskies claiming the top spot. That didn’t sit well with sophomore midfielder Brittany Raymond.
“Everyone, up until this season, just thought (UCF) was better,” Raymond said. “When the preseason polls came out, they ranked UCF higher than us and that really (ticked) us off, because we think we’re better.”
The Bulls quickly defied the preseason notions.
USF ranks second in the conference in scoring (1.88 goals per game). While the Bulls have outscored their opponents 32-9 this season, the Knights have allowed the second most goals in the AAC (1.50 per game).
“We want to start with the high press,” Raymond said. “It worked really well for us against (East Carolina) and if we come out with that intensity, we can keep them on their weak side and score a goal quick.”
Their test against UConn showed USF’s prowess so far this season, but most importantly solidified the belief that they can beat any team, including UCF.
On Friday, USF will travel into hostile territory well tested. UCF has beaten or tied both No. 8 Clemson and No. 20 UConn en route to one of their highest rankings in program history.
“We don’t have any reason to be intimidated,” coach Denise Schilte-Brown said. “I think we’re playing well and the girls are gelling really well, on and off the field.
“We enjoy playing UCF every year; it’s always a really competitive game.”