Women’s soccer report card: Strong performances overpower early tournament exit

This season marked USF’s fourth AAC regular season title and seventh overall AAC title. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

Coach Denise Schilte-Brown’s time at USF came to an end as the Bulls (10-6-2, 6-1-2 AAC) were knocked out by FAU in the first round of the AAC tournament.

The Bulls had an almost-perfect home record, losing only once against ECU 2-0 and tying against Charlotte 0-0.

USF’s longest win streak came in the conference when it beat UAB, UNT and SMU 1-0 each. Sophomore defender Signe Markvardsen contributed two goals and three clean sheets.

Schilte-Brown spent 17 years at USF winning seven AAC titles. She was on track for her eighth when No. 7 seed FAU (8-7-5, 3-3-3 AAC) caused a 1-0 upset in the first round of the AAC tournament.

Here’s how the emotional season went for South Florida.

Game of the Year

USF versus Florida College, Sept. 7 – 13-0

As the Bulls were coming off its biggest defeat of the season losing 5-1 to the No.1 ranked FSU, Schilte-Brown and her team were looking to bounce back.

And bounce back they did.

USF put 13 goals past the Falcons while keeping a clean sheet, breaking the program record for most goals in a game.

Related: Women’s soccer sets program record for most goals scored in one game

Junior defender Georgia Brown scored four goals in the first half, tying the program record for most goals in a game. Sophomore midfielder Gentiana Fetaj dished out a career-high of three assists.

USF had a comfortable nine-goal lead at half-time, prompting Schilte-Brown to give all her players game time. She took off 10 of the starting 11 players, including sophomore goalkeeper Leire Herraez Gallach.

In Schilte-Brown’s first season at USF in 2007, the team recorded nine assists. The Bulls finished this game with 11 assists, also tying another program record.

Season heartbreak 

USF versus FAU at Lakewood Ranch, Oct. 31 – 1-0

South Florida went into the AAC tournament riding the high of winning the regular season title against their opponents 2-1 five days prior.

However, the Owls held USF down to a 1-0 loss.

Related: Women’s soccer fails to make a comeback in season-ending FAU match 

The lead up to the game was filled with emotions. Schilte-Brown delivered a moving speech at the end of the regular season as alumni who played under her watched from the stands.

Related: ‘Relationships above winning’: Schilte-Brown clinches division title in her final regular season game at USF

Going into half-time, the score was 0-0 and in the same situation as the regular season matchup. This time, however, the Owls opened the scoring in the 63rd minute and preserved the lead till the end ruining all hopes for a perfect ending to Schilte-Brown’s USF career.

Player of the year

Sophomore defender Signe Markvardsen

Markvardsen was arguably the Bull’s most important player this season. She scored both her conference goals in the 1-0 wins against UAB (6-7-5, 2-3-4 AAC) and UNT (8-5-3, 2-4-3 AAC).

As a defender, Markvardsen’s attacking output greatly helped the team at a time when they were facing a scoring drought and coming off a 2-0 loss to ECU (9-5-5, 4-2-3 AAC). After the UNT game, Markvardsen said she feels comfortable playing more offensively since her team has improved at defending.

“Since we have three [defenders] in the back, it allows me to go forward a lot more. And I feel  like we’ve gotten better at defending,” Markvardsen said. “I think of myself as a defensive player who wants to be an offensive player.”

Since Markvardsen joined USF in 2022, Schilte-Brown has started her in every match. In a post-game interview, Schilte-Brown said Markvardsen was the smartest player in her team.

“She’s the smartest soccer player we have,” Schilte-Brown said. “She’s just ahead in her concepts of the game.”

The Bulls fulfilled the expectations of winning the regular season title, but an early exit in the AAC tournament put a dent in the team’s season outcome.

Final grade: A-