USF women's soccer survived a 90-minute rain delay and a five-minute lapse of concentration to defeat the visiting FIU Panthers 3-2 on Sunday afternoon.
The Bulls (2-0-0), off a 2-0 win away from home against Louisana-Monroe, rotated the lineup heavily throughout throughout the game to get the reserves some playing time. A total of 20 different players entered the game for USF. Coach Denise Schilte-Brown went to her subs early and often, three coming before the 25th minute.
The younger lineup was evident early. USF had early-game jitters that resulted in FIU taking control early. For the first 15 minutes, FIU dominated possession, leaving USF on their heels. Most mistakes could be chalked up to lack of experience from the very, very young squad.
However, the team's veterans began to take command and earned USF a corner in the 19th minute. The inswinger from freshman Hrafnhildur "Hrabbo" Hauksdottir (thank God I don't have to pronounce that) was buried in the back of the net by senior Carlotta Fennefoss for her first career goal at USF.
From there, the Bulls went on the attack again with another immediate chance from Andrea Hauksdottir that was nearly cleaned up by Leticia Skeete. Then the Panthers went on a counterattack following another USF corner. Sophomore defender Kelli Burney made a great play to slow up a breakaway striker just enough to allow the rest of the USF defense to recover. The speedy FIU forwards would continue to test USF through most of the match.
The Bulls doubled their lead early in the second half when Trudi Carter sent a deflected through ball into the box and Leticia Skeete scored in the 53rd minute.
Then disaster. FIU equalized with a quick brace from Alyssa Robinson in the 55th and 56th minutes to level the game at two apiece. The entire USF team seemed to have fallen asleep after the second goal, and suddenly found themselves reeling.
Luckily, the Bulls still had a few veterans on a very young squad. After a few more substitutions, USF began to slow the game down and regain some control. By the last 20 minutes, FIU was becoming frustrated by the Bulls mental recovery and allowed USF a slew of set piece chances late after several very avoidable fouls. However, none were converted and the game would go to overtime.
Two minutes into overtime, Trudi Carter went streaking down the right side to the touch line and sent a ground ball across the six. An unfortunate FIU defender had the ball ricochet off her legs for an own goal to end the game 3-2 in favor of the Bulls.
After the game, Carlotta Fennefoss commented on the unusually high number of subs used, saying "anybody could come in and make a difference for the team." That is a weapon that USF will likely be able to use to their advantage later in the season.
Coach Schilte-Brown called the five minutes after the second USF goal "a really good lesson for our girls," and expressed pride in the ability of the freshmen that she has on her squad this year.
The Bulls played an impressive team game throughout, which will help to fill in the holes left by the likes of Olivia Chance and Diana Saenz. This might have started out as a potential rebuilding year, but if the Bulls can improve their mental game before conference play, they should contend, yet again, for the conference title.
USF travels to SEC country this Thursday to take on the Kentucky Wildcats.
- USF shelled FIU on shots 18-4, nine on target to FIU's four.
- Let me draw extra emphasis to Carlotta Fennefoss' first career goal. The senior defender was absolutely ecstatic after the game, and she deserved at least one for all the hard work she's put in all these years.
- USF did not receive any yellow cards, FIU was booked twice. The Panthers' Amira Griffin was nearly sent off after a second incident that saw her take a blatant sweep of the legs of freshman defender Yasmine Hall.
- The FIU keeper had a phenomenal day. Coach Schilte-Brown revealed in a post-game interview that keeper Sophia Trujillo was originally a USF commit who changed her mind after the transfer of USF legend Christiane Endler.