USF women’s soccer booked its spot in the AAC final with a retributive 2-0 win against SMU on Thursday. The Bulls had previously fallen to SMU on Oct. 10 by the same scoreline.
USF’s pregame huddle was full of juice, something coach Denise Schilte-Brown said worked to her team’s advantage.
“I think they were energized,” Schilte-Brown said. “It was just nice for all of us to be together and I think it’s a great group.
“They get along, they care about one another. It isn’t segregated. So I just think they care about one another and it shows. It’s been a fun team.”
After a quiet first half that saw both sides unable to net a goal, back-to-back AAC Offensive Player of the Year Sydny Nasello broke open the scoring and gave the Bulls the lead in the 55th minute.
“I was thinking [of taking the] shot right away,’” Nasello said. “I didn’t think I was going to hit it as well as I did. I felt it. It was just right as it left my foot, I was like, ‘I think it’s under the crossbar’ and then it hit the back of the net.”
Nearly 20 minutes later, sophomore defender Lucy Roberts scored a thunderous header off of a corner kick, putting the finishing touches on a game that sealed USF’s trip to the conference final.
Before the second-half scoring from Nasello and Roberts, it was a highly contentious game, which led to some early angst by the USF coaching staff.
Schilte-Brown admitted the staff knew how important the match was before kickoff.
“I think as a coaching staff, we were wound [up] a little bit tight going into this game,” Schilte-Brown said. “This was a swing game for us. We win this, and we’re in the NCAA tournament. We lose this, and we could be on the bubble.”
As the Bulls look ahead to the conference final against Memphis and potentially the NCAA tournament thereafter, Schilte-Brown said she believes the chemistry of her squad will push her team.
“It’s [the chemistry that] will carry us through,” Schilte-Brown said.
“I mean, at this point there’s lots of teams that actually want to be done with their season. They’re just tired. They’re over it, and our group has stayed excited and stayed together and really been there for each other.”
The Bulls will take on the Memphis Tigers for the AAC Tournament title Sunday at home in Corbett Stadium. The game is scheduled to kick off at noon and will be televised on ESPNNEWS and broadcast on Bulls Unlimited.