Seniors lead charge toward Red Division title
Though the USF men's soccer team has had meaningful contributions from young players, the team is led by a pair of senior co-captains - defender Aubrey Perry and midfielder Sebastien Thuriere.
Both Perry and Thuriere will be honored tonight before kickoff of their final regular season home game. The two were on the team in 2008, the last year the Bulls won the Big East championship, and could clinch the Big East Red Division again with a Senior Night victory.
Perry and Thuriere said they know what is at stake when they take the field at 7:30 p.m. against Cincinnati.
"It's nice to be honored and all, but we just have to do our best to not get distracted," Perry said. "We have to be ready, as soon as that whistle blows, to play the game. We can't look at our Senior Night or whatever else."
Despite a focused and prepared mindset, the seniors also reminisced about their favorite memories from USF.
"For me, it would be my freshman year," Thuriere said. "It was obviously a tough year for me because I was playing immediately as a freshman and it wasn't easy. But I earned more playing time as the year went on, and we eventually won the Big East championship."
Perry said he has enjoyed watching the team change from year to year.
"I think my favorite part was diversity because every year the team was different," Perry said. "There were so many different people from so many different origins every year. But over time, we all always jelled together and became like a family."
One thing both Thuriere and Perry agreed on was that their time under the tutelage of coach George Kiefer, one of the most successful coaches in the Big East, was an experience that will be treasured.
"I love his balance," Perry said. "He can be really funny, but then become serious right away. Then, even on days where he's chewing us out and shouting at us all practice, there will still be times where he can crack a joke or two."
"His honesty is something I appreciate," Thuriere said. "I like a coach that gets to the point. Tell me what I am doing wrong so I can fix it. That's exactly how coach Kiefer works with us, and I really like that."
Kiefer said the players and coaches are refusing to allow the potential division title the Bulls could win tonight to distract them from the game.
"This game is another game for us," he said. "We have yet to play a full 90 minutes of soccer. If we can even play 80 minutes like that second half against (Villanova), we will be good. If, at the end of the day, we can pick up those three points, then we'll have succeeded."
For the Bulls to clinch the outright Red Division title, they will need to beat Cincinnati and have Rutgers lose or tie with St. John's. If both the Bulls and Rutgers win, USF is guaranteed at least a share of the title.
"Yeah, I am hopeful we can pull it off," Kiefer said. "But I'm not going to let that become a distraction. We want to be holding up the trophy after the game, but if we focus on that, then that trophy is going to be shipped back to New Jersey."
Though the Bulls will honor their seniors slightly before kickoff against the Bearcats, it will not be the last game the Bulls will host this season.
USF has already clinched an additional home game via the Big East tournament, and could clinch two additional NCAA Tournament home games by finishing within the top eight in RPI after the Big East tournament. In the most recent RPI poll, released Tuesday, the Bulls were ranked fifth.
"It's a good thing that this isn't the last home game, because, you see, a lot of the time on Senior Night, the focus is on the wrong thing," Kiefer said. "Here, we can honor them, but it won't be goodbye. So, we'll just focus on the game."
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