Everything clicked for the No. 22 USF women’s soccer team as it cruised to a 2-0 victory over Cincinnati in the final regular-season home game Thursday.
“I was really proud of the girls,” coach Denise Schilte-Brown said. “I thought they were patient and really executed what we asked them to do well.”
The Bulls (10-3-2, 5-1-1 AAC) established a two-goal lead for the first time this season. Their confidence built over the course of the game, and considering their penchant for overtime finishes, it was a welcome change.
“At halftime, I didn’t want to take any stock in being one goal up, but it felt way better [tonight],” Schilte-Brown said. “My stress level, my shoulders, my head, it’s crazy how much better it felt.”
Junior forward Sydny Nasello once again stamped her name on this matchup. Whether she hugged the right touchline waiting for a chance to beat a defender off the dribble, or won the ball back on defense, she popped up in just about every position on the pitch at some point.
“Of course [Nasello] can be dangerous in the final third, but her defensive transition is what we’re really proud of the last couple games,” Schilte-Brown said. “Her contribution to the defending part of the game has increased and that helps us a lot.”
In the 20th minute, Nasello drew a foul on the edge of the penalty area and dispatched the ensuing spot kick to the bottom left corner.
“I decided [where to place the penalty kick] before the game,” she said. “By now, I’ve pretty much established with the amount of penalty kicks I’ve taken that [opponents] watch film. In the last three kicks I took on this net I went top right, so I knew before I took it I was going bottom left.”
That confidence in her technique even extended to her weak foot. In the 53rd minute, Nasello dribbled into space at the half-circle and whipped a left-footed shot into the top right corner of the net, her 10th goal of the season.
“I think [for] that, had I taken another touch, it would have given the two defenders enough time to close on me so I had to get that shot off right away,” she said.
For the Bulls’ defense, it’s a second shutout in a row from the unity that built upon the momentum of the 1-0 double-overtime win over No. 23 Memphis last week.
“Our defense is the best in our conference in my opinion and one of the best in the nation,” junior goalkeeper Sydney Martinez said. “The [defense] did their job tonight, I had to hardly do anything thanks to them.”
The Bulls maintained their hold on the top spot in the conference standings and control their destiny for the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.
The team is finding their groove at the right time, with just one game left until it’s time for knockout soccer.
“Our confidence is definitely high [going into our final game] at Temple,” Martinez said. “I’m very confident with our girls that we’re going to go all the way.”
The Bulls’ regular-season finale takes place at Temple on Oct. 28. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.