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USF Bulls women's soccer enjoying turnaround season

TAMPA — Forgive women's soccer coach Denise Schilte-Brown for wanting to go trick- or-treating next weekend with her 4-year-old twins, Ethan and Kenza.

If the Bulls (8-5-3) continue their strong play in the final weekend of the regular season, they'll have a top-four seed in the Big East tournament and will get to host a quarterfinal match Nov. 1. Which means Schilte-Brown and her husband, Chris, a Bulls assistant, don't have to be on the road on Halloween.

Schilte-Brown's team has exceeded most preseason expectations by going 5-2-2 in Big East play, including three straight wins. The Bulls hadn't won more than three games in their first four seasons in the Big East, and they've already matched their most overall wins since 1999.

The Bulls are tied for the Big East's American Division lead, and could win the regular-season title with two wins and a Marquette loss. Not bad considering they finished tied for fifth and sixth in the same division the past two seasons.

"It's really exciting for their confidence," Schilte-Brown said of the team's recent surge, which includes a 3-0 win at Louisville on Friday and a 2-1 overtime win at Cincinnati on Sunday. "I think their confidence was high going into the weekend, but we're pretty excited about this."

Schilte-Brown played a slew of freshmen last season, and that experience is paying off, as the top scorers are sophomores Chelsea Klotz (seven goals, one assist) and Noelle Pineiro (six goals, three assists). As a team, the Bulls are on pace to double last year's scoring total, with 23 goals after scoring 13 last year.

CROWDS: After a strong turnout for Thursday's loss to then-No. 8 Cincinnati, it'll be interesting to see how many fans the football team can get for marquee home games against West Virginia on Oct. 30 and Miami on Nov. 28.

USF announced Monday that the Miami game is nearly sold out, with 650 tickets remaining, and only through three-game miniplans that start at $75. USF has had two sellouts at Raymond James Stadium, against West Virginia and Central Florida in 2007.

The Miami game is closer to selling out because the Hurricanes got a larger allotment of tickets — 8,000 — as part of the contract between the schools. Big East opponents, by comparison, are allotted a total of 3,400 tickets for USF home games. If Miami fails to sell out its allotment, there would be additional tickets available for Bulls fans next month.

THIS AND THAT: Despite an 11-6 overall record, the volleyball team is just 4-3 in Big East play and tied for seventh, with only the league's top eight teams making the conference tournament. The Bulls have a good chance at a sweep this weekend, at home against Georgetown and St. John's, who are a combined 2-12 in conference. … Men's soccer, ranked as high as No. 5 in national polls, is home against Dartmouth tonight, with another home match Saturday against Villanova.

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.

USF Bulls women's soccer enjoying turnaround season 10/21/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 21, 2009 12:40am]

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