Five matches. Five victories. Three shutouts. Two awards from Conference USA. A top-20 national ranking.
The USF men?s soccer team has all that, but at the end of the season it might not matter at all if the Bulls don?t place highly in the conference standings.
The Bulls (5-0) have their first C-USA match Saturday at 4 p.m. when they take on Charlotte at the USF Soccer Stadium. The top six teams in the 11-team league advance to the conference playoffs, and the winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs.
?We start a new season on Saturday ? a season where we are 0-0-0,? said USF coach John Hackworth. ?We don?t have a win, we don?t have a tie, we don?t have a loss. And nothing up to this point means anything, except for (the fact) that our confidence is very high, and that we?ve done and gone through some hard battles.?
The Bulls lost 2-1 to the 49ers last year in Charlotte, en route to a seventh-place finish in the conference regular season. Charlotte placed third in the regular season standings last year and lost to Louisville in the first round of the C-USA Tournament.
?Charlotte has always been ? our archrival in the conference and they?re a good team,? Hackworth said. ?They return almost everybody from last year?s squad (and) obviously they beat us up there.?
However, unlike last season when they won three of their first four matches, the 49ers (1-1-2) have only one victory in their first four matches this year. They defeated Gardner Webb 4-3, lost to new C-USA team East Carolina 1-0 and tied Memphis and Alabama A&M at 1.
The Bulls, on the other hand, have raced out to a 5-0 start and a No. 15 national ranking by Soccer America.
USF shut out Stetson 3-0 Wednesday, the third clean sheet kept by the Bulls this year. The Bulls have also won two Player-of-the-Week awards from C-USA, through goalkeeper Troy Perkins last week and forward Jason Cudjoe on Monday.
Against Stetson, Cudjoe scored for the third consecutive match. But the senior said he does not expect Charlotte to key on him during Saturday?s match.
?I?m pretty much an underrated player,? Cudjoe said with a laugh. ?So I don?t think they?ll pay much attention to me anyway.?
Volleyball team plays Billikens
The Best Western Invitational at USF was canceled this weekend, but the Bulls? volleyball squad will still be in action Sunday at 11:30 a.m. at the Corral.
Saint Louis (2-5), one of the three scheduled participants in the tournament, will still face USF (4-3), but now the match will be a part of conference play as opposed to the tournament.
The Billikens? leader on the floor is junior Colleen Hunter, who set a school record for kills in a season last year.
Contact Khari Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org and Anthony Gagliano at email@example.com