Down a goal and a player, the No. 11/15 USF women’s soccer team showed ultimate resolve in a 2-1 comeback win over Kentucky on Sunday afternoon.
“I don’t know how many minutes we played a man down,” coach Denise Schilte-Brown said after the game. “To keep the ball [the way] we did, create the chances we did, I think this was a big step in the right direction towards the build that we’re looking for in our season.”
Two goals in the final 10 minutes of play sent Corbett Stadium into a frenzy. The 85th-minute winner came off the head of freshman defender Vivianne Bessette, her first goal of the season and fourth of her USF career.
“I knew [the goal] was coming,” Bessette said. “[Coach Schilte-Brown] kept urging us, saying it’s coming, it’s coming. So I went with that mentality on the field.”
Just minutes before, junior forward Sydny Nasello evened the score. She tucked away a loose ball in the box after battling for a cross from freshman forward/midfielder Kendall Lincoln. It’s Nasello’s team-leading third goal of the season.
“We were creating opportunity after opportunity,” Nasello said. “It was just a matter of time before things were going to start going our way. It’s just a warrior mindset that you need to be first to the ball, and that’s exactly what I did.”
For a while, it seemed as if nothing was going the Bulls’ way. When the Wildcats (2-1-1) were awarded a penalty kick in the first half, sophomore goalkeeper Katrina Haarmann made the save. Unfortunately, it fell to an onrushing Kentucky player who slotted it home to take the lead. When Nasello herself earned a penalty kick in the first half, the opposing keeper was equal to it.
“Yeah, I can’t sweat [the penalty miss],” Nasello said. “I don’t think I went in confident enough. But the keeper made a great save, all power to her.”
The second half didn’t start much better for the Bulls. A straight red card shown to senior defender Chyanne Dennis in the 53rd minute seemed like the nail in the coffin for their comeback effort. She found herself in a physical one-on-one situation with a Wildcat forward. Dennis attempted to shrug her off the ball but applied too much contact for the referee’s liking.
“[The Kentucky player] didn’t have control of the ball,” said Schilte-Brown. “Dennis bumped her and [the referee] felt like that was a foul. In my opinion, it wasn’t a foul.”
Shortly after the incident, the game was suspended for inclement weather. According to Schilte-Brown, Dennis had a few choice words for the team in the locker room.
“If I repeated what she said it couldn’t [be printed],” she said. “She’s a true leader. She wants to win and she has her teammates’ back.”
Schilte-Brown also revealed the team received motivation from Dr. Lee Dorpfeld, behavioral health coordinator for USF Athletics.
“We had a good talk with Dr. Lee, that’s our psychologist. He had some good inspiring words and ways to get the girls fired up.”
Whatever was said in the interval, it made the right impact. The Bulls came out of the delay with fierce attacking intent, keeping possession as if they were the team with a man advantage.
“I think the way we possessed the ball, [Kentucky] didn’t really have much of a choice [but to sit back and defend],” Nasello said.
The Bulls now turn their focus to Thursday night’s matchup versus Tennessee, the final of their SEC opponents this year.