USF women’s soccer 2015 season ended in heartbreak when it lost to Cincinnati in the AAC Championship on penalty kicks two years ago.
On Sunday, however, it was the Bulls’ who were on the winning side of a penalty shootout in the conference title game, with USF leaving Orlando with its first AAC title in program history.
To make the win even sweeter, it came against cross-state rival UCF, the tournament’s No. 1 seed and the nation’s No. 8 team.
“I just feel like we have been cursed by penalty kicks so this was a nemesis, and we came back and won a championship in penalty kicks,” USF coach Denise Schilte-Brown said. “It’s what you work for all year, and what you want for the girls.”
After neither team found the back of the net for 110 minutes, the game was sent to penalty kicks, where USF converted every shot it took and outscored the Knights 5-3.
Andrea Hauksdottir, Evelyne Viens, Sabrina Wagner and Leah Ferlin scored the Bulls’ first four penalties, while the Knights scored its first three.
Then, senior goalkeeper Kat Elliott stopped a shot from UCF leading goal scorer, Morgan Ferrara, preserving the Bulls 4-3 advantage. The Bulls would win the match if they scored a goal on their next penalty.
Kelli Burnley was next up for the Bulls to shoot and she converted, winning the game for USF and clinching the Bulls an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament.
“I don’t think there are words for it,” Elliot said. “We’ve been to the championship game three times and didn’t make it in penalty kicks. I thought, ‘Senior year, it’s time to put it all on the field.’”
To go along with her save, Elliot recorded six saves against the Knights, helping to earn her AAC defensive player of the tournament honors.
“Kat was amazing,” Schilte-Brown said. “I’m just really proud of the group. We have stayed together and we haven’t listened to anything outside of what we think is important.”
USF had tied UCF 1-1 in its only other meeting of 2017, the last game of the regular season.
The win guaranteed USF a spot in the NCAA tournament. Though they lost, the Knights will likely join the Bulls in the NCAA tournament as an at-large bid.
“Our big goals are to go far into the NCAA tournament,” UCF coach Tiffany Roberts-Sahaydak said. “We’re not done. We still positioned ourselves to be successful.
Both USF and UCF will learn its NCAA tournament fate Monday at 4:30 p.m. in the NCAA tournament selection show.