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Women’s Soccer Hammers #17 Baylor 3-1

A 3-1 scoreline can imply a close game. This was not one of those.

Women’s soccer warms up in the rain
Carl Zee

The women’s soccer team upset the #17 Baylor Bears 3-1 in extremely convincing fashion on another wet night in Tampa on Friday.

It was an almost two hour rain delay, but it turned out to be worth every second. Junior striker Evelyne Viens dominated the score sheet with two assists and a goal to her name, but the team effort from USF kept Baylor’s vaunted long-ball game from ever truly materializing. Coming off a frustrating loss at Auburn earlier this week, the Bulls did their best to dominate every aspect of the game.

The Bears invited pressure early, and USF was happy to provide. However, when Baylor tried to spring an attack on USF, the Bulls easily regained possession off balls in the air to dominate possession in the first half. Twice the Bulls stuck woodwork, but their persistence paid off. Off a corner, a loose ball fell to the feet of Viens. Her shot deflected off junior defender Brianna Blethen for Blethen’s first career goal for USF in the 37th minute.

Baylor didn’t get a chance to wake up, as Viens beat two defenders to start a fast attack just 4 minutes later. She laid the ball off to freshman forward Emma Davies, who easily slotted it home for the game-winner. The Bears looked stunned and huddled immediately following the goal.

Any hope for Baylor that USF turned off at halftime were quickly dashed. In the 49th minute, Viens received the ball in the middle of the field and decided to take on her defender. A few step-overs gave her space to shoot and she buried her first goal of the 2018 season.

“It’s such a tough dynamic to play a team like Baylor,” said Coach Denise Schilte-Brown after the game. “You watch them on video, and video is so challenging sometimes because we’ll watch them and they look so athletic.

“But I was just really proud of how we managed their athleticism and kept the ball played. I thought Sabrina Wagner had a really tall task tonight, an incredible athletic task, and she handled it with class. And the discipline to keep squeezing the field. Every time the ball goes up, because it’s a lot of long ball from them, our team had to recover. Every time we went forward, we had to recover. So we had to manage the spaces, the bigger the spaces the better it was for the other team, and I’m just proud of the girls for their discipline.”

Baylor managed to pull one goal back in the 54th minute via a header, but the Bears couldn’t climb out of the hole. Freshman keeper Sydney Martinez made several key saves late in the game to deny a Baylor comeback. One point-blank shot in particular stood out to many fans after a communication error in the defense led to an incredible chance for Baylor.

Emma Davies quietly had a very good game. While she’s not a starter, the freshman made her presence felt in the offensive third of the pitch, including scoring her first collegiate goal. Good ball skill and an eye for the net, she’s quickly becoming a dangerous offensive weapon off the bench for USF among an incredibly deep offensive lineup.

“We knew they were a direct team, they liked to play it long. So we just tried to do out best to keep it on the floor, play our game and just go around them and score,” Davies said after the game

Freshman forward Sydny Nasello had another standout game, despite not registering on the score sheet. The freshman was electric, creating plenty of offense and megging opposing defenders almost for fun. While it might have been easy to dismiss performances against Towson and preseason opponents, she and Davies replicated their excellent games against a Top 20 opponent on Friday.

It wasn’t a perfect game by USF, the back line had a few nervy moments that Coach Schilte-Brown will want to hammer out before conference play. But those in attendance got to see one of the more complete teams put forward by USF. Collin was one of those and he’s now driving the women’s soccer bandwagon.

USF takes on Detroit Mercy this Thursday, August 30th, before traveling to Navy.