SAINT LEO — Senior forward Evelyne Viens was notably absent from the lineup, but the Bulls’ newcomers edged out a victory as No. 21 USF women’s soccer defeated Division II Saint Leo 2-0 at Saint Leo Soccer Field on Thursday night.
The lack of Viens gave way for new recruits to accrue playing time and allowed coach Denise Schilte-Brown to test new tactics.
Seven newcomers played their first minutes for the Bulls (2-1) — freshmen Alanna Lutchmansingh, Sophie Shrader, Lizzie Spears, Ivymae Perez, Maya Alicea, Chloe Zamiela and sophomore Hannah Telleysh, who did not play for USF last season due to an injury before the start of the season.
“We wanted to see some different pairings. We wanted to give the girls that have been fighting hard at practice a lot of time,” Schilte-Brown said. “It was a lot about the competition within the group to see where everybody was for us right now.”
Viens, who has one goal in two games this season, was not in the lineup for the Bulls because Schilte-Brown wanted to give the star striker a rest. While the match counted for USF, it was considered an exhibition for Saint Leo, which further explains Viens’ absence.
“You just want her running at full tilt, this wasn’t the game to have her out there,” Schilte-Brown said.
The Bulls scored early, as an initial shot from senior midfielder Andrea Hauksdottir was saved by starting Saint Leo goalkeeper Julia Ortiz in the 17th minute but fell at the feet of senior forward Aubrey Megrath, who slotted it past the keeper.
A chance to score a second goal via a penalty was squandered in the 75th minute when Hauksdottir’s shot was saved by Lions’ goalkeeper Alyssa Abernot, who replaced Ortiz late in the first half. A rebound shot by junior midfielder Katie Kitching was also saved.
“I got really annoyed, which I think anyone would get annoyed with,” Hauksdottir said. “It happens, I guess, There’s always next time.”
Missing her first chance gave Hauksdottir the motivation to get her name on the scoresheet, and it didn’t take much longer for her to score.
After gliding past the Saint Leo defense, she fired a rocket into the top right corner to double the lead for the Bulls in the 86th minute.
“You got to fuel the fire,” Hauksdottir joked.
Hauksdottir, Megrath and Viens typically make up a three-pronged attack, but with Viens missing, Megrath and Hauksdottir had to readjust their tactics.
“That’s a huge difference, having her and not having her,” Hauksdottir said. “But I think whoever came in for her did a great job.”
Defensively, the Bulls were hardly tested by the Lions throughout the match.
Sophomore goalkeeper Sydney Martinez was replaced by freshman keeper Katrina Haarman after halftime. Haarman saved Saint Leo’s only shot on goal in the 74th minute.
Despite the positives of the match, USF faced a potentially serious injury midway through the second half.
Sophomore defender Camryn Lizardi was stretchered off in the 65th minute after a heavy challenge from a defender sent her to the ground, clutching her left leg.
“We’re praying over her right now,” Schilte-Brown said. “We’re hoping the result is not what it could be.”
To add to their woes, the Bulls learned that their match against Ohio State scheduled for Sunday was canceled due to the threat of Hurricane Dorian.
“That’s frustrating, I understand safety first, but I mean, the hurricane is not supposed to hit until Tuesday, ” Schilte-Brown said. “I would like them to have more patience but I’m not in their shoes … we definitely wanted that game.”
Schilte-Brown is looking to make up the game, however.
“A lot of people will lose games [due to Dorian]. Everybody in Florida will lose games, so we’ll see what we can do,” Schilte-Brown said.
Instead of dwelling on the past, Schilte-Brown is looking ahead and her focus is on the Bulls’ next game against Rice in San Antonio on Sept. 6.
She said there is still work to be done on the training field for the Bulls, with an emphasis on finishing.
“I’d like more goals to be going in,” Schilte-Brown. “If you look at the statistics of the number of goals we had in the last three games they’re not as high as we like.”