Viens’ hat trick leads Bulls to victory as USF’s revenge tour runs through Gainesville

Evelyne Viens recorded a hat trick within the span of 13 minutes to lift USF to a 4-2 victory over Florida in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

GAINESVILLE — There’s no doubt USF women’s soccer was playing with a chip on its shoulder Friday night in its first round matchup in the NCAA Tournament.

After all, the AAC Tournament champion and No. 11-ranked Bulls (15-4, 7-2 AAC) were sent on the road to face unranked Florida (11-9-1, 6-3-1 SEC) in Gainesville.

Maybe it was for the best, though, as USF put on a show at Donald  R. Dizney Stadium, defeating the Gators 4-2 thanks to a hat trick by senior striker Evelyne Viens.

Viens’ goals came in a flurry, with the first coming in the 43rd minute and the third in the 55th — within the span of 13 minutes, the Bulls were up by three.

It happened in such a flurry, in fact, coach Denise Schilte-Brown didn’t realize it at first.

“I don’t know those facts. I mean, they happen to you during the game, but it’s not like you know them,” Schilte-Brown said. “But … it’s absolutely incredible. I can tell you that she [Viens] saved years from my life and stress. When it’s a one-goal game, you kind of never take the button off the stress level. So I would have to say the fashion that we won was really enjoyable and a lot less stressful.”

Viens’ first goal came off an assist by freshman midfielder Rosalia Muino Gonzalez inside the box, while her second-half goals came off plays where Florida’s goalkeeper, Susi Espinoza, was in poor positioning, allowing the ball to get past her. Senior midfielder Andrea Hauksdottir registered an assist on the second goal and senior forward Aubrey Megrath and sophomore forward Sydny Nasello earned assists on the hat-trick goal.

Viens, who likely cemented her USF Athletics Hall of Fame status with her performance Friday — incidentally as the Class of 2019 was being inducted 90 minutes south at the Marshall Student Center — gave all the credit to her teammates.

“If you just look at the goals, I just needed to put it in,” Viens said. “I think Andy [Hauksdottir] had two assists today, [Megrath] has one, Sydny has one … all credit to my teammates. If you look at the goals, it’s all on them.”

Viens’ 23 goals breaks her own program record for goals in a season (20 in 2018), and prior to junior defender Fanny Pelletier-Laroche’s goal off a corner kick in the 84th minute, the Quebec native had scored all seven of USF’s goals in the postseason, counting the AAC Tournament.

It was no fluke those four goals found the back of the net. USF was by far the better team Friday night, outshooting UF 12-5 in the first half and 18-14 by the final whistle — and was arguably the better side in the first matchup between the two teams this season on Aug. 25.

That definitely was a boost for Friday’s game, according to Schilte-Brown.

“I think in the first time we played them, we had like 27 shots, and we had the opportunity to win the game,” Schilte-Brown said. “So I think that the confidence that we had going into this game helped a lot, too. It was about finishing, putting our chances away, and you could see that we continued to gain momentum with every goal and the girls really took advantage of those opportunities.”

The game from August also helped the Bulls strategize for Friday’s matchup, as they knew exactly what to expect, according to Schilte-Brown.

“You can say [Florida forward] Deanne Rose is fast, but until you’ve experienced it, you don’t know what that means,” Schilte-Brown said. “You can just talk about the way they move the ball and what it’s like, but obviously, living it once, it just helps you prepare for it.

“I didn’t think there was a ton of change from the way Florida played us before, and so that obviously allowed us to be confident in what we were going to do.”

USF dominated possession, exact stats for which were not available at the time of publication, especially in the early going of the game. Florida’s best opportunities, including its goals by Rose in the 62nd minute and defender Georgia Eaton-Collins in the 85th minute, only came once the game opened up due to Viens’ hat trick.

“Our possession was incredible today,” Schilte-Brown said. “I think there was a span of 10-15 minutes where we had the ball, and that was just incredible soccer. I’m not just proud of the win, I’m proud of the style that we play. It’s incredible soccer.”

While USF’s postseason run thus far has been dubbed the revenge tour on social media — after all, all three opponents the Bulls have faced and subsequently defeated (UCF, Memphis and Florida) were teams that defeated USF in the regular season, it’s not quite that to the players.

“It’s always important to win a game, so it doesn’t matter who your opponent is,” Hauksdottir said. “It’s always going to be important, whoever it is.”

Friday’s win also marked the first time in program history that USF defeated the Gators. The Bulls were 0-5-1 prior to Friday, which included a loss in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

So things were a little bit sweeter.

“I think remembering that they beat us helped us big time,” Megrath said. “Knowing that that’s who took us out last time. It’s just like, ‘We have to win. This is our last go-around.’ It just helped a lot knowing that they beat us last time.”

And, of course, the aforementioned chip on the shoulder because of the home game snub by the NCAA Selection Committee.

“I think that knowing we should have hosted fueled our fire big time,” Megrath said. “All of us, of course we were upset, but what are you going to do? You have no control over it, so I think that that was a benefit for us. It just changed our mentality.”

The Bulls’ second round opponent and location will be determined Saturday. The Bulls play the winner of Washington vs. Seattle in Round 2. Meanwhile, if FSU defeats South Alabama, that second round game  — and a potential third round game — will be played in Tallahassee. If FSU loses and Washington wins, those games will be played in Seattle. If both Washington and FSU lose, the games will be played at Corbett Stadium.

Schilte-Brown, whose Bulls are now 11-1 away from Corbett Stadium, would probably accept the challenge of another road game, considering her thoughts about her team after Friday’s victory.

“We’ve been road warriors,” Schilte-Brown said. “We’re a road-warrior team.”