Sole possession of regular-season title on the line against Cincinnati

Junior forward Sydny Nasello (above) leads the Bulls in goals scored on the season with four. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

After beating Memphis on April 3, the USF women’s soccer team secured at least a share of the AAC regular-season title, as well as locking up the No. 1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament, guaranteeing itself the right to host the event.

With a win over Cincinnati on Sunday, however, the Bulls (7-0-1, 7-0-0 AAC) can guarantee themselves sole ownership of the regular-season title and cap off an undefeated regular season including a potential perfect 8-0 record in conference play.

The only slight blemish on USF’s resume through eight games this season is a double-overtime draw in a nonconference matchup against UF on Feb. 27. Aside from that, the Bulls have been virtually perfect.

Following her team’s win over Memphis, coach Denise Schilte-Brown didn’t want to get too ahead of herself, but she touched on her thoughts going into the final game prior to the postseason.

“I didn’t want to think too much past this game,” Schilte-Brown said. “We did talk about preparing for the turf and what we can get out of the game [against Cincinnati].”

Gettler Stadium, where the Bearcats (4-4, 3-3 AAC) play, features FieldTurf as opposed to the grass that Corbett Stadium employs.

The Bearcats already having a feel for the turf likely gives them at least a slight edge over the Bulls, but that is just one of the layers to this matchup.

Cincinnati, which is currently in fourth place in the conference, will almost certainly be playing the game with extreme urgency.

Due to COVID-19-related safety measures, the tournament for this season has been shrunk down from six participants to just four. If the Bearcats want to ensure they don’t fall out of the playoff picture, they must beat the Bulls.

If Cincinnati loses, that opens the door for UCF to sneak in if the Knights can pull off a victory against Houston.

Schilte-Brown recognized the fact that the Bearcats will desperately want this win, and referenced the tough tasks Cincinnati presents that should help the Bulls down the line.

“I think Cincinnati is a really good team and they need to win the game,” Schilte-Brown said. “And they present a lot of really good challenges for us that I think will develop for us moving forward in the conference tournament.

“I think we’re excited to maybe try a few more things, but just the challenge of playing on turf at Cincy and the style of play [will be difficult].”

Ultimately, Schilte-Brown wants her team to use this game as an opportunity to grow and get better before the conference tournament kicks off April 15.

“There’s so many great opportunities for us to get better in that game, I think we’re excited about that,” she said.

The Bulls and Bearcats will kick off April 11 at 1 p.m.