WHAT: College of Charleston Cup
WHERE: Charleston, S.C.
USF SCHEDULE: 7:30 p.m. Friday at College of Charleston; Noon on Sunday vs. Kennesaw State
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - The USF women's soccer team got to a point late last season where head coach Denise Schilte-Brown wanted to take a look at what the future could offer in game situations.
Forward Sharla Passariello was a sophomore at the time and got a special message from the coaching staff.
"We just kind of turned and said, 'OK, it has to be your team now. It's your time to shine,'" Schilte-Brown said.
Passariello responded by scoring two goals against St. John's in a 3-2 win a game before the season finale and she's taken her body of work to a whole new level this season. The native of Abergavenny, Wales, scored three times in two preseason contests and has four goals in USF's first five games this regular season heading into Friday's 7:30 p.m. test at the College of Charleston. She had three goals all of last year.
"I think everybody handles opportunities differently. Sometimes girls are really good, but they don't take that opportunity and maximize it. I think it this case, Sharla has taken an opportunity and done it well," Schilte-Brown said.
Goals are what grab attention, but what might be the most impressive part of Passariello's game is how she's all about her teammates. Ask about her success and she'll tell you it's all about the 10 other players on the field with her.
"It's the rest of the team. I'm just up there at the end of things. If I get the chance, I'll take it," Passariello said.
Having a star forward that's a team player can pay dividends for a squad, just ask USF men's head coach George Kiefer after he saw Dom Dwyer ignite the Bulls during their 2011 Elite Eight run. Schilte-Brown sees a lot of Dwyer's qualities in Passariello this year.
"Sometimes a forward mentality can be different, but when you have one like that it's a great opportunity for your whole team to do well that year," Schilte-Brown said.
Passariello said the greatest contributing factor to her hot start has been the Bulls' chemistry in any situation.
"The team atmosphere has definitely changed. Everything is a lot buzzier," she said. "What happens off the field is being taken on the field and you can tell the difference."
Watch USF behind the scenes and you'll find that Passariello is someone who really pumps up the team's fun vibe. Schilte-Brown said Passariello's humorous personality is "priceless," even though Passariello admitted that she doesn't find herself funny.
"She's funny. I think for the first year I didn't understand half of the things she said with her accent," Schilte-Brown said. "We still joke about that. Now that I clearly understand her, I can appreciate her more."
Passariello gets a big kick out of being a prankster, but she recently was caught on the receiving end of a joke after scoring twice in a 3-0 victory at Indiana. Passariello was being interviewed for a USF player show when someone ran by and smashed a whipped cream pie in her face.
"She was somebody we knew would take it really well and enjoy it. She kind of saw it coming out of the corner of the eye and tried to duck," Schilte-Brown said.
"I like to have a bit of laughter with stuff," Passariello said.
Passariello has been the source of lots of laughs off the field, but she's up to much more than that when it's not game time. Schilte-Brown's top scorer came into preseason camp in top shape and she hasn't let up one bit now that her sprints and shots count.
"When nobody was looking this year, Sharla was out running and getting better. She came in with a great level of fitness to compete and now we don't have to take her off the field," Schilte-Brown said.