The USF women’s soccer season came to a close with a 3-1 loss in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against #5 FSU in Tallahassee on Friday.
The Seminoles drew the top seed in USF’s absolutely loaded corner of the bracket, and host the second and third rounds of the NCAA tournament. The Bulls, after a dominant performance against Albany, had a decent showing against the top 5 Noles.
The shot count did indicate possession, with FSU out-shooting USF 17-4. However, the Bulls didn’t allow very many good looks for FSU, conceding two scrappy goals and one that was the result of USF pushing forward for a late equalizer.
The Bulls actually held the lead for a short time. With junior striker Evelyne Viens off the field to avoid a second early yellow, USF found a great combination play at the top of the Seminole box. The ball worked its way across to junior forward Aubrey Megrath. Her shot was partially blocked, but trickled past the post and into the net in the 35th minute.
The lead was short lived, unfortunately.
FSU immediately threw numbers forward, and found the equalizer in the 41st minute off a backheel. Freshman keeper Sydney Martinez was a tad late getting to the ball, and the creativity of FSU to come up with the backheel caught the USF defense by surprise.
FSU would take the lead in the 63rd minute from forward Yujie Zhao, who would bag an assist on the late dagger. The Noles picked apart the USF defense but the goal itself was scrappy. Martinez saved the initial shot, but the save bounced directly back off Zhao and on into the net for an unfortunate game winner.
The dagger came off USF pressing too high on a FSU throw. Zhao slipped behind senior defender Kelli Burney and got a pass to Gloriana Villalobos around a charging Martinez. It was a simple finish into an empty net to finish the game.
On the Viens yellow card and fouls in general, USF led the foul count 19-6. There was only one other notable game this season where USF was heavily penalized more than their opponent, against Auburn (Fouls USF 24-12 Auburn, and the Tigers won 2-1).
The tone was set early when Megrath came in for a handful of challenges and was called for multiple fouls. The Noles were not prepared for the level of physicality, and the referee called against it, which did remove some of USF’s weapons. The game took a turn when Viens was carded for her first foul (which was a light call at best) in the 25th minute. The referee seemed to decide to make an example out of her as a warning for the rest of the team. The card meant that Viens was essentially unable to take another foul, and thus removed a significant amount of her physical prowess to chase down long balls.
To be fair, FSU was the more talented team, possessing for most of the game and making USF chase. However, the Bulls were not in over their heads. While two defensive breakdowns led to two goals that made the difference, USF had their chances and did lead the game for a time. Going toe-to-toe with a top 5 team is definitely not the worst way to end the season.
A note about the bracket, FSU goes on to face the corner’s 4 seed, the #6 USC Trojans. The Elite 8 game would feature winner of that vs winner of #8 WVU and #14 Penn State. USF’s corner had the most ranked teams in the second round, resulting in one of the single most stacked corners you’ve ever seen.
After @USFWSOC’s early exit again from the NCAA tournament at FSU, I asked @USFWBB head coach @CoachJFernandez, who has some experience with this exact thing, what he thought about how the @ncaa seeds and brackets teams in every sport except men’s basketball: pic.twitter.com/GgTElR7Xlu— Nathan Bond (@BullsNathanSBN) November 17, 2018
Barring transfers, USF returns nearly the entire team in 2019. The only starter out of the lineup to graduate will be Kelli Burney. While plenty of fans are concerned with Viens leaving to go professional next season, that’s currently not in her plans. In a previous interview with 813area’s upstart reporter Collin Sherwin, she said she plans to come back to USF and continue to work on her game.
“I’m not there yet. I still have so much more to improve on. If you look at me my freshman year and right now, I’ve improved so much. I think I can add more aspects to my game, and I think my senior year, it’s still here to be ready to go play professionally somewhere”
Should the Bulls return all expected on their current lineup, USF will be one of the most dangerous teams in the country in 2019.