Men’s soccer digs in at home against 49ers

The regular season ends for the USF men’s soccer team Sunday at home vs. Charlotte, but the Bulls will be far from done after Sunday’s match.

USF hosts the Conference USA Tournament next week Thursday to Nov. 18, and the Bulls are assured of a spot in the six-team field. USF coach John Hackworth said he is happy about the way the season has gone, and looks forward to a strong performance against the 49ers leading into the tournament.

“It’s a tough season being so compact and so short,” Hackworth said. “With all the trials and tribulations that you have to go through, I think my team has handled it very well. And hopefully, this is just the end of one season and the beginning of the new season for us in terms of postseason play.”

The Bulls (14-4, 7-2 in C-USA) are assured of at least the third seed in the tournament, and they could move to second if UAB (13-3, 7-2) loses to East Carolina (6-11, 2-7) tonight. Charlotte (8-8-2, 4-4-1) lost to regular season champion Saint Louis (14-1, 9-1) Wednesday and needs a point to clinch a berth in the tournament.

Hackworth said his team will not be providing the 49ers any favors.

“They need at least a tie to ensure a spot in the tournament, so they have to get a point out of this game. That puts a lot of pressure on them,” Hackworth said.

“For us though, we want to finish the season strong and play our soccer. We’re not going to change our game plan for them at this point. We’re going to do what we do best, and we’re going to play for the ‘W.'”

Though the Bulls have secured a spot in the tournament, unlike last year, Hackworth still regrets losses to UAB and SLU that may end up costing the Bulls one of the top two spots and a first-round bye.

“I wish we had both those games back, against UAB and Saint Louis,” Hackworth said. “You look back and you say, ‘could have, would have, should have.’

“But at the same time, our turnaround from last year has been pretty remarkable. I attribute that to my players and their commitment, their attitude and their decision to set some goals for themselves and to go after it.”

Like the Bulls, Charlotte defeated N.C. State and Duke in Raleigh, N.C., and boasts wins vs. C-USA rivals DePaul, Marquette, TCU and Cincinnati.

“If we’re not prepared to play our best, then we’re in for a long day because Charlotte is the type of team that has the talent and ability to beat anybody,” Hackworth said.

“Sunday’s match kicks off at 1 p.m. and will be the last home regular-season match for seniors Matt Cavenaugh, Jason Cudjoe and Joe Valencia.

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