The Dons looked like a re-energized team in their last two home games of the year, tying Loyola Marymount 1-1 and defeating Pepperdine 2-0. USF finally broke out of its long slump; at the start of the weekend, the Dons had not won a game since defeating Kansas on Sept. 15. Reversing this trend, San Francisco (6-8-4, 1-4-2 WCC) found a way to secure a win and a tie in front of their home crowd before the season ended.
On Sunday, USF celebrated Senior Day and honored all of the seniors in their last home game of the season against Loyola Marymount (3-15-1, 0-7-1). The match was intense and evenly-played throughout. The Dons snatched an early lead thanks to freshman midfielder Amanda Whittle, who scored the lone USF goal. She delivered with 16:34 left in the first half off of a cross from junior forward Mackenzie Krieser, and her second goal of the season put the Dons up 1-0.
USF kept their lead intact well into the late stages of the game, only to lose it with five minutes left in regulation. LMU sophomore midfielder Jocelyn Blankenship was awarded a penalty kick after being fouled near the Dons’ goal, and her shot went past sophomore goalkeeper Madalyn Schiffel to tie the game. Schiffel was going for her second straight shutout, but the penalty kick ruined those hopes and sent the game into overtime. Both teams kept fighting hard through both ten-minute overtime periods, but neither team was able to walk away with the win, and the match ended in a 1-1 tie.
On Friday, the Dons broke a streak of nine straight games without a win, finally tasting victory by persevering against a tough Pepperdine squad. The teams were tied after the first half, but the Dons got on the board twice after that. In the 52nd minute, Krieser received the ball after a corner kick went off of Pepperdine freshman goaltender Hannah Seabert’s hands, and blasted the ball into the goal to give the Dons a 1-0 advantage. It was Krieser’s second goal of the year, and Whittle was credited with the assist.
“I think our pressure was a really big factor in this game,” sophomore forward Alex Alugas said. “On offense, we just kept pressing the defense, and they always felt pressure back there…I think [Kreiser’s] goal was just a cross-in, and we just kept pressing. It was a great goal.”
The Dons were still up 1-0 late in the match thanks to sharp goaltending from Schiffel, and in the 74th minute, Alugas padded the lead by sending a high shot past Seabert to give the Dons the breathing room they needed to secure the victory.
“[The shot] went a little higher than I expected, and it went over the goalie,” Alugas said. “It was a little lucky, but I’ll take it.”
Along with Krieser and Alugas, Schiffel was an important contributor to the Dons’ success over the weekend. Her six saves against Pepperdine (9-7-2, 4-4-0) were crucial in preserving the 2-0 shutout.
“She just knows what she’s doing,” Alugas said of Schiffel. “It’s really great to have her back there because I know I have confidence in her to get the shutout. I’m really glad that she finally got the shutout. I’m really proud of her.”
USF will finish the regular season on the road, heading to Gonzaga on Nov. 7 and Portland on Nov. 9 to conclude a season that has been filled with ups and downs. Although they are not near the top of the West Coast Conference rankings, the Dons can still end the season on a high note after gaining momentum from their performances against Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount.