It went about as well as it could for the USF men’s soccer team during Wednesday’s Senior Night, as defender Aubrey Perry and midfielders Sebastien Thuriere and Santi Alexis were sent out in style, taking down the Cincinnati Bearcats 3-0 to clinch at least a share of the Big East Red Division championship.
The outcome was decided by the 10th minute, when junior forward Dom Dwyer found himself in a rare one-on-one matchup, finishing past Cincinnati’s redshirt freshman goalkeeper Taylor Hafling to give the Bulls an early lead, much to the delight of the raucous home crowd of 1,498.
“I loved the atmosphere tonight,” coach George Kiefer said. “I’m not one to celebrate when there are so many games left, but it was nice to win for that crowd. They have helped us a lot this year. I think now this will entrench them more to us the rest of the year.”
After a dominant end to the first half, the Bulls’ offense got back to work early in the second half when, in the 57th minute, co-captain Thuriere brought back shades of 2008 when he finished for his second goal of the season off a long pass from Ben Sweat and a short tap from Dwyer.
Thuriere was responsible for one of the biggest goals in USF men’s soccer history when he scored five minutes into overtime to give the Bulls their first-ever conference championship in the 2008 Big East title game against St. John’s.
“I was really pleased with that,” Kiefer said. “He’s gotten some good shots of late and got unlucky, but I think you’ll see Sebastien score some key goals for us now that he got that one out of the way.”
Dwyer struck again just a minute later when he finished a missed save into the back of the net for his 16th goal in as many games played, tying him for first in the nation.
“I play ahead of everyone, so I’m kind of expected to score,” Dwyer said. “I don’t think I should get that much credit for it. I don’t even touch the ball that much. I get set up by everyone else out there on the pitch.”
With Rutgers winning in overtime at St. John’s, the Bulls have only clinched a share of the Big East Red Division title, and they will have to defeat Rutgers on the road Sunday at 1 p.m. in a de facto division championship game.
“We’ll be right back to work tomorrow,” Thuriere said. “We have another game to play in Rutgers, so we’re going to have to stay focused because the road is not over yet.”
The Bulls have, however, clinched both a bye into the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament and a home game, which will be played Nov. 5 against an opponent that is yet to be determined.
USF (12-2-2, 7-0-1) has also set itself up nicely for a chance to host one or more NCAA tournament matches. Now ranked No. 5 in the RPI, the Bulls will keep moving up as long as they keep winning. Teams in the top eight in the RPI host up to two NCAA tournament matches.
“It’s not time to celebrate yet, and I can assure you that those guys in the locker room right now are not content just yet,” Kiefer said.