After starting the 2017 season off with a 3-0 win over Lipscomb Monday night, USF will travel to face tougher competition in the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic in Bloomington, Indiana and Omaha, Nebraska over the weekend.
The Bulls, who are led by first-year coach Bob Butehorn, will face No. 17 Butler (1-1-0) on Friday night and No. 7 Indiana (2-0-0) on Sunday.
These two back-to-back matchups against ranked opponents are the first of four USF will play in 2017. The other two matchups are Sept. 8 against No. 23 Creighton in Omaha, Nebraska and on Sept. 26 when No. 11 Louisville comes to Corbett Stadium.
“Going into these next few games against Butler, Indiana and Creighton, it’s going to be a really big challenge,” senior defender Gabriel Menescal said after Monday’s win. “But I think if we stick together and fight for one another, I don’t see why we can’t come out with results.”
Through four total games including the preseason, the Bulls have dominated in possession, but may struggle to keep that trend of play going into this weekend’s games.
“That’s going to be a tough one,” coach Bob Butehorn said about holding a majority of possession against Butler and Indiana. “Gaining position in those road matches can be tough. But it’s nice when we can kind of stretch a game out when we’re a little bit tired and fatigued.
“I think there has to be a purpose to it, so hopefully when we get on the road we find a purpose to that position and make something count.”
While Indiana was eliminated in the tournament’s third round by Virginia Tech in 2016, Butler’s season ended similarly to the Bulls’.
After earning a first round bye, the Bulldogs were eliminated from the NCAA tournament on a penalty kick loss at home in the tournament’s second round. USF was eliminated after losing in penalty kicks to Florida Gulf Coast at Corbett Stadium in the first round.
The returning Bulls will have their shot at redemption against Florida Gulf Coast, who also beat USF during the regular season in 2016, on Tuesday Oct. 24.
USF, who has 15 new players this season, will rely heavily on senior Ricardo Gomez to control the midfield and serve as a mentor leading up to the Bull’s first road trip of 2017.
“I think Ricky knows that his importance is bigger than being on the field all the time,” Butehorn said on Monday. “His importance is going to be what his legacy is for these younger guys. There’s a lot of talent in that midfield and there’s a lot of times where there’s gonna be guys that are playing and they need to understand their role if they aren’t playing.”