Team hopes to win first C-USA game of season
With only five games left on the schedule and still winless in Conference USA, the Cougars’ (4-8-1, 0-5-1 C-USA) hopes for a postseason berth seem to be slipping fast. But as they strap on their cleats tonight and hit the field in Hattiesburg, Miss. to take on Southern Miss at 7 p.m., a different perspective permeates the locker room.
"We (the coaches) just keep telling them that anything is possible. If we can just get a result in each one of our five games, we’ll still have a chance to go to conference," head coach Susan Bush said. "We are keeping the atmosphere positive."
One thing is for sure – the Cougars can be positive that Southern Miss (5-8-1, 1-5 C-USA) is coming into the matchup just as hungry as they are. The Golden Eagles have dropped their last four games and face a similar turning point in their season where every win comes at a premium.
"They’re struggling, too. Both of our teams are kind of in the same boat where it’s a must-win situation, so if we can get any kind of result," she said, "I think that will be a big confidence booster for the UCF game (which the Cougars will play on Sunday), who is generally one of the stronger teams in the conference."
Southern Miss boasts two speedy senior forwards in Sarah McFadden and Obafemi Alao. The two lead the team with three goals each. The Golden Eagles are a very physical bunch who have out-fouled their opponents 133-124 and will certainly not back down from a shoving match with Houston. The Cougars will try to avoid too much physicality because of the nagging injuries that have plagued them all season.
"We only have one true defender in our backline right now (because of injuries), so that is hurting us and is also taking some of our offensive players out of our attack because we keep moving them back (and) forcing players to play out of position," Bush said.
After battling the Golden Eagles, the Cougars will head to Orlando, Fla. on Sunday to face the Central Florida Knights. UCF (8-3-3, 3-1-2 C-USA) is coming off an overtime win against Colorado College on the road and returns to their home field, where they hold a 4-1-1 record, this weekend.
Junior midfielder Becca Thomas anchors the Knights’ attack with four goals and two assists on the season, but the offense is fully loaded – senior forward Hanna Wilde, junior freshman Courtney Whidden and sophomore forward Amanda Martorana all have three goals on the season.
Bush says Houston is heading into the weekend’s games with a sense of urgency and is hoping to get its first conference win, which will allow the team to play with a more relaxed attitude.
"I think once we get that huge monkey off our back, our kids will enjoy it more and play a little bit better," she said.