Women’s soccer ranked 24th in United Soccer Coaches Poll

A strong Bulls defense, anchored by junior goalkeeper Sydney Martinez, is a big reason why USF cracked the United Soccer Coaches Poll Top 25 Monday. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

The USF women’s soccer team made its first appearance in the United Soccer Coaches Poll on Monday, coming in at No. 24.

USF is also nationally ranked in the TopDrawerSoccer rankings, currently slotted at No. 16.

The Bulls (4-0-1, 3-0) received votes in each of the first two weeks of the coaches poll before breaking in for Week 3.

Coach Denise Schilte-Brown’s team has built an impenetrable defense in 2021 that has yet to concede a goal in any match this season. The five consecutive clean sheets are a program record.

The offense has scored more goals (9) than junior goalkeeper Sydney Martinez has shots saved (7), a stat that puts into perspective how dominant the Bulls have been on that end of the pitch.

In front of Martinez, three central defenders have commanded each match. Senior Chyanne Dennis has been recognized for her performances with consecutive AAC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Freshman defender Vivianne Bessette arrived at USF with high praise from the coaching staff and has exceeded expectations. She has started every game so far this season, even chipping in with her first collegiate goal and assist versus Florida Atlantic.

The third spot in the backline has been filled in by a rotating cast of defenders including senior Aideen O’Donoghue, sophomore Lucy Roberts, and senior swiss army knife Sabrina Wagner. Every configuration has played well, as USF opponents are averaging just 4.4 shots per game.

Following Saturday’s 3-0 win over Tulsa, Schilte-Brown described the defense as “really solid” and spoke glowingly about Martinez’s confidence.

“[She] looks amazing in net,” Schilte-Brown said.

Going forward, the goals have come from all over the pitch. The team’s top goal scorer is senior left wingback Paula Leblic with three. She scored a brace against Tulsa, earning her an AAC Offensive Player of the Week award.

Junior attacker Sydny Nasello spends a lot of time on the ball, taking on defenders and creating chances for the Bulls. She leads the team in shots (20) and shots on goal (10).

One player who may not show up on many stat sheets but deserves plaudits is freshman midfielder Chiara Hahn. She is consistently breaking up opposing attacks and dictating play from the base of midfield.

If there is any room for improvement, it could come from freshman forward Serita Thurton. The striker hasn’t found the back of the net yet, but she is consistently in dangerous positions in the opponent’s box. It should only be a matter of time before she scores her first goal.

Overall, the Bulls have built a formidable squad who play with great confidence. Halfway through the season, a conference championship push is looking likely. Coming up next is a home match versus in-state rivals UCF on Sunday.