Despite winning the first five matches of the year and gaining a top-20 national ranking, the USF men?s soccer team has not yet faced a Conference USA team this season. The Bulls get their first chance at a C-USA opponent Saturday when they take on Cincinnati at the USF Soccer Stadium beginning at 7 p.m.
Regular-season conference matches determine seedings for the C-USA Tournament, in which only the top six teams participate. The winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs. With this year?s C-USA Tournament hosted by USF, the Bulls have no shortage of motivation to perform well against the rest of the conference.
?Everything we?ve done before doesn?t mean much if we don?t get results against conference opponents,? said USF assistant coach Jim Felix.
Of all the Bulls? 10 victories last season, none was more dramatic than their 4-3 overtime win Sept. 23 at Cincinnati. USF fell behind 3-0 early in the second half before scoring in the 70th, 87th and 88th minutes to tie the match. The golden goal came less than a minute into overtime.
?It was an amazing match because we were down and it seemed like we were out,? said USF coach John Hackworth. ?And (we) put some new players in, and all of a sudden we owned the game ? Cincinnati had no idea what hit ?em.?
Five starters return from that Cincinnati team which ended 6-9-3 (3-2-3 in C-USA) and was eliminated in the first round of the C-USA Tournament. Hackworth said he is mindful of the revenge factor in Saturday?s match, and he also respects the ability of first-year Bearcats coach Hylton Dayes.
?We?ve known each other for quite some time, and I have a lot of respect for him,? Hackworth said. ?I know he?s doing a great job and I know the team?s going to be well-organized and ready to play.?
Like most other collegiate sports teams, the Bulls had to adjust their schedule last week following the tragedy and Tropical Storm Gabrielle.
USF?s match vs. Charlotte, originally scheduled for Sept. 15, will now be played Nov. 11. The Bulls? Sept. 26 matchup with Florida Atlantic has been shifted to Sept. 25 at 6 p.m.
According to Felix, the tragic events that unfolded in the past week have not adversely affected his players.
?I think they handled everything well, in light of their situation,? Felix said. ?And I think it shows the maturity level, realizing that there?s much more to life than just soccer.?
Felix appealed to the student body to support the Bulls Saturday.
?We?d love to see all the students come out,? he said. ?I know there?s a football game at 8 (against Memphis), but we play at 7. Come out and support us for as long as (possible).
?You?d be surprised what kind of product we?ve got on the field, too. It?s pretty exciting to watch.?
Cudjoe earns national honor
Senior forward Jason Cudjoe was named to the Soccer America Team of the Week for Sept. 3-9 for his efforts in the Duke/Adidas Classic tournament. Cudjoe scored a goal each against N.C. State and Duke, as the Bulls won both encounters 2-1. Cudjoe was also named the C-USA Offensive Player of the Week and the Most Valuable Player of the tournament that same week.
Khari Williams covers men?s soccer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org