TAMPA – It didn’t take long for South Florida's women to put Sunday’s disappointing loss to Syracuse behind them.
The Bulls appeared eager, and ready, for Thursday night’s Big East tournament first round game against DePaul as they practiced on Tuesday afternoon. According to Bulls assistant coach Adam Sayers, the team has been looking forward to getting back to the tournament, and is excited to have a home game against the Blue Demons.
“Our goal all season had been to get into the Big East tournament, and we achieved that goal, so rather than focus on last weekend, we’re looking ahead to what is a very exciting home game,” Sayers said. “Getting to host in itself is a big achievement, so we’re looking forward to the game, the players are looking forward to the game. There were a lot of positives to pull out of last weekend, results aside, and we’re going to focus on those and fit them into the DePaul game.”
South Florida and DePaul didn’t face each other in the regular season, but those within the Bulls camp are expecting a physical game that will require the Bulls to maintain their discipline if they are to move on to face Notre Dame on Sunday. The Bulls are excited, though, to get a home game to start the playoffs after finishing with four consecutive road games to end the regular season.
“Knowing it’s a home game, we’re just really excited,” defender Angelique Waller said. “We get to gain our confidence back after a loss away, so I think we’re going to play as a team and get the win this week and go on the road and beat Notre Dame.”
PENALTY PRACTICE: Moving into the postseason means no more ties, and the prospect of penalty shootouts if teams can’t settle things in regulation or overtime.
The Bulls finished practice with a round of spot kicks as Coach Denise Schilte-Brown began formulating who might be called upon should a game go to penalties. Also getting practice was Bulls goalkeeper Mallori Lofton-Malachi as she tried to stop her teammate’s shots, and she was in a good mood after practice when asked if she had any specific things she tried to do when facing penalties.
“If I told you, then I’d have to kill you,” she said with a straight face before breaking into a smile. “I just try to stay as confident as possible because in the end goalkeepers aren’t supposed to be the ones scoring the goals, we’re not really expected to save them, so you just try to do the best you can in there and try to stop some.”
PROPER PREPARATION: With the bulk of the Bulls’ squad being underclassmen, there are only a handful of players who have competed in the Big East tournament before. Lofton-Malachi and Waller are two who have, and Lofton-Malachi said the most important thing for the side to do is make sure it takes care of what it wants to try and do in the game.
“I think we’re really focused on ourselves,” Lofton-Malachi said. “(DePaul is) probably as excited to be in the Big East tournament as much as we are again. I think me, Angelique and (Lindsey Krawower) are the only ones, with a couple of other people, who have been in the Big East tournament first round, so it’s exciting for everyone, but I think we’re more focused on ourselves and what we need to do to beat them and play Notre Dame on Sunday.”
Sayers added that from the moment the Bulls knew they would be playing on Thursday, the team’s focus has been on preparing properly to ensure a good start to the game and advancement into the tournament quarterfinals.
“Everything from the end of the previous game leads up to those first 20 minutes (of the game),” Sayers said. “So we’ll make sure the preparation is correct physically in terms of the training we do leading up to the game and the warm-up, we’ll make sure that’s to the required standard. Nutritionally we’ll make sure everything is in place so they’re as fueled as possible going into the game, and then we’ll implement the game plan that we’ve set out.”