The University of South Florida women’s soccer team was looking forward to the challenge of facing No.5 Notre Dame in the Big East tournament quarterfinals.
With half-an-hour of the contest gone, and the Fighting Irish’s Melissa Henderson having already scored a hat trick, the Bulls may have been wondering if they should have been careful what they wished for, as they saw their season come to a crashing end. Notre Dame added another pair of goals before halftime, and advanced to the tournament semifinals with a 5-0 victory at Alumni Stadium.
“That was a really well-executed and decisive effort for us,” Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum said. “When you get into the conference tournament, and particularly when you're coming in off a bye while the other team has had a chance to play already, there's a concern that you might come out flat or unfocused. But we were sharp right from the opening kickoff, we got the early goal and we kept putting the pressure on them.”
Notre Dame took the lead in the 11th minute, as Julie Scheidler’s cross from the right found Henderson at the penalty spot, and the Irish’s leading scorer turned and fired home. The Irish doubled their lead five minutes later, an angled ball from the right side of the penalty area from Lauren Fowlkes finding Henderson for a volleyed finish.
Henderson completed her hat trick in the 29th minute, capitalizing when Bulls goalkeeper Mallori Lofton-Malachi was unable to take a cross cleanly to score her 11th of the season.
Fowlkes then scored her eighth of the season before Lofton-Malachi was substituted for Gaby Garton, a disappointing end to a standout career for the Bulls senior goalkeeper. Garton allowed the Irish’s fifth goal, scored by Ellen Jantsch in the 39th minute, and made four saves after coming on.
While the end to their season came in disappointing fashion, the season as a whole should be viewed as a success for the Bulls.
For a start, they finished the season 9-8-3 overall, the first time the Bulls have finished above .500 for a season since 1999. In addition, of the team's seniors, only Lofton-Malachi saw major playing time for the Bulls this season, giving Coach Denise Schilte-Brown players who progressed greatly over the course of this season to continue to build around in the spring and next season.
Foremost in these is the sophmomore strike duo of Chelsea Klotz and Noelle Pineiro, who combined for 16 goals this season, and junior Angelique Waller, who was outstanding in defense for the Bulls all season. Add in the experience gained by players like Gina Pacheco, Bahar Sansar, Rehana Murani and Taylor Patterson, all of whom could represent Canada in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament for the 2010 Under-20 World Cup in Germany, and the Bulls appear to have a bright future.