The Dons put forth a strong effort on the road, but ultimately rounded out their season with a tough 1-0 double overtime loss to the Portland Pilots on Nov. 17., after defeating the Gonzaga Bulldogs 1-0 two days earlier in Spokane, Wash.
Despite the loss, USF played well against Portland, taking 17 shots to their opponents’ 11 and keeping the Pilots (9-11-0, 4-8-0 WCC) scoreless through regulation play. The Dons kicked into a higher gear at the start of overtime — senior midfielder Vegard Karlsen had multiple chances to win the game, but his shots couldn’t find the net. In the second overtime, USF continued to put pressure on Pilots goalie Justin Baarts, but to no avail. In the 106th minute, Portland midfielder Matthew Coffey sent a strong kick past San Francisco redshirt freshman goalkeeper Connor Gaal and into the goal, stunning the Dons and giving the home team an improbable 1-0 victory.
On Nov. 15, USF notched a huge win against Gonzaga (9-6-3, 4-4-3 WCC), jumping out to an early lead on senior forward Liam Kelly’s third goal of the season. In the 18th minute, Kelly controlled a pass from senior midfielder Mauricio Diaz de Leon and capitalized on his scoring opportunity to give the Dons a 1-0 advantage. For the rest of the match, USF junior goalkeeper Chase Hauser was able to prevent the Bulldogs from scoring, saving a penalty kick and helping San Francisco hold on in the final minutes. It was an impressive performance by the Dons, who snapped a three-game losing streak with the win.
Although they didn’t end the year with a winning record, many players turned in successful campaigns and rewarded for their efforts. Karlsen was named to the All-West Coast Conference First Team, while junior forward Miguel Aguilar and Diaz de Leon were awarded Second Team honors.
This season also marked Head Coach Erik Visser’s final year with the team. Visser, who began his coaching career at USF in 2001, announced his retirement on Nov. 20. A two-time NCAA champion as a player for legendary Dons coach Stephen Negoesco as well as a three-time WCC Coach of the Year, Visser leaves the program as a central figure in the history of USF soccer whose impact will be felt for years to come.
In their last two matches of the year, the Dons suffered close losses to Portland and Gonzaga, falling by a score of 1-0 in both games.
On Nov. 19 at Merlo Field, USF (6-10-4, 1-6-2) gave No. 12 Portland (16-2-1, 8-1-0) all it could handle, keeping the score tied until the 67th minute, when Pilots midfielder Ellen Parker found an opening off of a corner kick and gave Portland a lead they would not relinquish.
The loss was a disappointing one for the Dons, but the team proved that they can hang with the best in the conference, let alone the nation. Sophomore goalkeeper Madalyn Schiffel’s four saves put San Francisco in position to come up with a win or tie, and junior Mackenzie Krieser got a good look at the goal in the first half, but in the end the Dons couldn’t outlast the Pilots, who clinched the top spot in the West Coast Conference with the victory.
In their previous game, the Dons fell behind early and were never able to recover. Facing Gonzaga (7-11-1, 3-6-0) on the road, USF came out aggressive and attempted two early shots, but in the seventh minute the tides turned, and the Dons gave up a goal to Bulldogs forward Heather Johnson.
The Dons didn’t let their offensive struggles affect their effort, however, as they worked hard to even the score late in the game. Junior midfielder Jaciara Mello nearly tied the match in the 86th minute, but her shot was saved by Gonzaga goalkeeper Christie Tombari.
San Francisco ended the season in ninth place in the WCC, but their multiple heart-wrenching losses suggest that their record would be much better if the ball had rolled their way a few more times. USF lost five games by just a one-goal margin.
The Dons held high academic standards all season long, with the players combining to average a GPA of 3.36. Also, three different Dons were given All-WCC honors. Junior forward Halle Bissin and Schiffel were both Honorable Mention selections, and freshman defender Jessica Nakae was named to the All-Freshman Team.