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Women’s soccer team to play Central Connecticut State in first round of NCAA tournament

Senior defender Chyanne Dennis (above), the AAC Defensive Player of the Year this season, will likely play an integral part of USF’s success in the NCAA tournament. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

On the heels of winning its second straight AAC tournament title, the USF women’s soccer team will play Central Connecticut State in the opening round of the 2021 NCAA tournament, as was announced Monday afternoon by the NCAA.

The announcement, however, was not as smooth as the team expected.

“The selection show is supposed to be at 1 [p.m.], so our team’s plans were to come in [at] 12:50, get food and watch the selection show but they started it at 12:30, so a couple of us didn’t even get to see it,” junior forward Sydny Nasello said. “I just think it’s kind of nonsense and not fair to a lot of us to miss that. Like if you have a time scheduled then be on schedule. The men’s was on schedule, and that’s just not fair to our team and other women’s sports.

“I’m sure that happened with other teams that were planning on watching that together and experiencing that together.”

Coach Denise Schilte-Brown echoed a similar thought, although she was part of the group that was able to see the show.

“There was about a handful of us [in the room watching the selection show], a good 10 between staff and players because we quickly sent out text messages and group chats and said ‘Run, it’s started,’” Schilte-Brown said. “I didn’t see the first bracket, I wasn’t paying attention and then all of a sudden it was dawning on me, this is live, this isn’t last year’s, this is happening right now.

“We were in the last bracket so a good chunk of girls, at least 10 of them got there before the announcement. I was sad for them and it doesn’t seem fair.”

Aside from the timing issues, some of the Bulls (9-0-2, 6-0-1 AAC) also took exception to where they were slotted in the tournament. Of the 48 teams that are going to North Carolina, 16 were seeded and given byes to the second round, a distinction that Nasello thought she and her teammates deserved.

“I think we should have been a seeded team, but we don’t feel like underdogs. We don’t feel like we have something to prove, we feel like we should have deserved a little bit more from the NCAA, which is fine,” Nasello said. “I just feel like [we should] go out there and prove why we should have been seeded and show them our best effort and earn their respect.”

Central Connecticut State (7-0, 6-0 NEC) comes in as North Eastern Conference tournament champions after it took down Long Island University in the title match April 16.

The Blue Devils, similar to the Bulls, boast a formidable defense that has proven difficult to break. Through seven games this season, the Blue Devils have allowed just one goal, which came April 13 against Mount St. Mary’s in a match where starting junior goalkeeper Amanda McQuillan did not play.

If the Bulls want to score against the virtual impenetrable wall that is Central Connecticut State’s defense and win their first-round matchup, they will need to do their homework.

Since this year’s tournament will be played entirely in Cary, North Carolina, and in the surrounding areas due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts, the NCAA committee did not have to take regions into account. Typically, the committee would create matchups that would not require much travel for the teams.

“I don’t know anything about [Central Connecticut State] … So tonight that’s my homework, getting on the computer and watching them and doing our homework and doing as best we can … I don’t know a thing about them yet,” Schilte-Brown said. 

“Isn’t that cool about the tournament this year? I wish moving forward if there was some influx of money and we could always do the NCAA tournaments based on true seeding as opposed to regional. I think it adds a great dynamic to all the effort that has been put into the work of each of the teams throughout the year.”

If USF does win against Central Connecticut State, it will face No. 7 Texas A&M (11-3, 7-1 SEC) in the second round.

The Bulls will take on Central Connecticut State on April 27 at 3 p.m.