TAMPA – Whenever the University of South Florida’s women’s soccer team has needed a spark this season, it has always seemed to be Chelsea Klotz that has provided it.
On Thursday night, after the Bulls and DePaul had fought in a scrappy contest that saw more fouls than shots on goal, Klotz scored her ninth goal of the season, and fifth game-winner, to send the Bulls into the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament with a 1-0 victory against DePaul.
Klotz, who had earlier had a goal disallowed on a close offside call, made the Blue Demons pay for a poor turnover, picking up the ball just outside the penalty area in the 84th minute before driving her shot home past DePaul goalkeeper Claire Hanold.
“She did well,” Bulls coach Denise Schilte-Brown said. “It was her first 90-minute game, we didn’t take her off the whole game, and I thought she not only worked hard but she stayed focused and continued to work for an opportunity. “
With the Bulls missing four starters – Taylor Patterson, Rehana Murani, Gina Pacheco and Bahar Sansar—who are trying to earn a place on the Canadian under-20 national team, Schilte-Brown had to turn to players like Taylor Brown and Kendall Campbell, both freshmen, who performed admirably under the circumstances.
“A lot of the girls just went in these positions that they hadn’t played before and said, ‘I can do it,’ “ Schilte-Brown said. “Just confidently took it upon themselves to be positive and confident and I think did really well. There’s just so many things to take away from this game and say, ‘hey, you guys are a great team, and you played together and we’re really, really proud of you.’ “
With the absences, though, the performance of goalkeeper Mallori Lofton-Malachi may have been the most important. While she only made four saves on the game, each one was critical. Schilte-Brown said that when Lofton-Malachi came out and established her presence early in the game, it set the tone for the way she performed the rest of the night.
“I feel that when you walk out to the pitch, and you can hear Mallori starts yelling and she’s getting on her teammates in a positive manner, and then that first service comes in and she catches it, that’s it, she’s going to have a fabulous game,” Schilte-Brown said. “That was it for her today, the first serve came in, she came off her line, cleaned it up, and she didn’t miss one (after that).”
The Bulls will travel to No.6 Notre Dame in the quarterfinals. Schilte-Brown said she expected the Bulls’ Canadian contingent to return to the squad in time for Sunday’s game, and that the team was optimistic it could pull the upset of the top-seeded Fighting Irish.
“I feel confident,” Schilte-Brown said. “I feel like (Notre Dame likes) to play soccer, and so do we, and we will have kids back from national camp who should probably be on a high, and we have the girls that just played here and should be on a high, so we’re going with a lot of positive energy. Why not take that and beat a top team?”