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Despite AAC championship and No. 11 ranking, Bulls fail to receive home game in NCAA first round

The USF women’s soccer team will face Florida on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

Despite winning the AAC Tournament for the second time in three years, being ranked No. 11 in the poll and having the 24th-best RPI, USF women’s soccer is hitting the road for the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

On top of that, the draw the Bulls received is downright maddening.

USF travels to Gainesville to face unranked Florida on Friday at 7 p.m. The winner of that game faces the winner of No. 4-seed Washington vs. Seattle.

But maybe it’s for the best, considering the Bulls were 10-1 away from Corbett Stadium this year, only falling in the regular-season finale to UCF on Halloween.

“We like to turn any negative into a positive,” sophomore forward Sydny Nasello said. “Obviously, we’d like to have our own fans and host. But again, if you look at the stats, we’ve done so well on the road and we play our best soccer on the road. And we’re close enough to where we will have fans there and it’s going to be a good showing. So we’re super excited.”

But it’s still not a fair draw — for the Gators, too — according to coach Denise Schilte-Brown. Both sides have legitimate claims to being among the 32 teams selected to host in the first round, according to the Bulls’ coach.

“Am I sad that I’m not at Corbett? Of course. I think we have one of the best stadiums in the country,” Schilte-Brown said. “Do I think the draw was fair? No. Not at all. Not for us or Florida. I think we both deserved to host. 

“I think we’re both ranked high enough where the regional ranking doesn’t make sense. They needed to take another look at that, in my opinion. … There’s like three schools in the state that made the top 64 — where’s the reward for the teams in the state that have done that? Instead, you play two teams that ranked [in RPI] [23] and [24] against each other.

“It makes no sense to me, but it’s all right. You want to play great teams to get all the way through.”

The two teams have met six times previously, with USF 0-5-1 all-time against Florida. Their last matchup came this season on Aug. 25. Florida won 2-0, but by all accounts, USF was the better team that day.

“I know we want to switch the result for sure. We want to come out with the win this weekend,” sophomore goalkeeper Sydney Martinez said. “I think we just need to focus more on us instead of on the other team and make sure we play our game we know how to play.”

The last time the two teams met in the postseason was in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, with the Gators winning 1-0 on a 42nd-minute goal.

Women’s basketball enters top 25

It didn’t take long for USF women’s basketball to enter the top 25.

After receiving votes to start the season, the Bulls entered the AP Poll on Monday at No. 25.

USF (2-0) was aided largely by its 64-57 win Friday against then-No. 15 Texas.

Additionally, junior Enna Pehadzic was named the AAC Player of the Week after averaging 18 points a game and shooting 44 percent and 47 percent from the field and 3-point range, respectively.

The Bulls wrap up a four-game homestand to open the season this week with Howard on Tuesday at 7 p.m. and VCU on Friday at 11 a.m.

Men’s soccer faces SMU in AAC semifinals

USF men’s soccer is moving on in the AAC Tournament.

After defeating UConn 1-0 in the quarterfinals behind a 50th-minute goal by junior forward Adrian Billhardt on Saturday at Corbett Stadium, the Bulls are headed to the semifinals — hosted by UCF — for a date with No. 11 SMU.

The Bulls fell to the Mustangs 3-0 on Oct. 11 at Corbett Stadium and are looking at this game as a chance at redemption.

“I think we stood here a couple of weeks ago, and about our performance, I said that we had a really good second half, and it was just our first half — maybe 20 minutes — that cost us the game,” senior goalkeeper Harrison Devenish-Meares said following the UConn win. “We’ve learned from that and we’re going to bring the game to them, and on the form we’re on at the moment  … three wins in a row, there’s a lot of people out there that would probably back us to maybe get into the final here.”

USF and SMU kick off at the UCF Soccer and Track Complex at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The game will be televised on the American Digital Network.