TAMPA, Fla. - It's opening night and Auburn is in town. For New Port Richey native Sabrina Wagner, game days are always special, as she gets to represent her hometown and home university.
"It doesn't really hit you until you're actually on the field," said Wagner, a defender and forward for the Bulls. "I feel like it's something that I thought about growing up and it's cool to actually be here doing it."
In her third year at USF, Wagner and her Bulls teammates want to kick it around for a little longer this season. They've made it to the NCAA tournament four of the last five seasons. In 2017 and 2018, they were ousted in the second round.
"I think we have the potential to do it," said Evelyne Viens, a senior forward and two-time All-American. "We have so many talented kids and I think it'll be a great year."
Even before the season begins, USF head coach Denise Schilte-Brown was calling these Bulls a national championship-caliber team. In order to be the best, you have to play the best. That's why the Bulls are starting out playing Auburn, Florida, and Ohio State in three of their first four games.
"Yes, I believe in them," said Schilte-Brown. "I believe in them to that level. For me as a coach now, and a team, you have to go one game at a time, so we're only thinking about Auburn right now."
The tough schedule is about the bigger picture, though, and a shot at a national championship. It's something Wagner would love to bring back to her hometown this year.
"If there was a year to make it there, it would be this year," said Wagner. "I really hope we can show that this is the year."
The 14th-ranked Bulls host Auburn University Thursday at 7 p.m. and then the University of Florida Sunday at 6 p.m. Both games will be played at USF's Corbett Soccer Stadium.