It took three overtimes to decide Sunday’s NCAA men’s soccer second-round match between USF and Penn State. In the end, it was the Bulls who were left on the wrong end of a heartbreaking loss, as the Nittany Lions prevailed with a 1-0 win on their home field.
“In general I thought it was a really good game,” USF coach John Hackworth said. “I’m very proud of my team. They played extremely hard, obviously, to play that long and not give up a goal.”
The all-important goal came in the 134th minute from PSU freshman forward Joe Zewe, assisted by Derek Potteiger. The Nittany Lions were awarded a throw-in, and the Bulls, thinking it was their throw, did not fall back into defense fast enough. Potteiger passed to Zewe, whose shot hit the underside of the crossbar and went in past goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
“I knew we just had to keep going and one would go in,” said PSU forward Chad Severs. “I told Joe that he was going to put it in the back of the net, and he did.”
The match was played in rainy conditions at Penn State’s Jeffrey Field. The first half went relatively quietly, with the best chance for USF coming right before halftime, as defender Brian Mullins headed marginally wide.
Both teams picked up the pace offensively in the second half. Penn State had the lion’s share of the scoring chances, as Severs fired wide right in the 68th minute, and Potteiger had a bicycle kick deflected out with less than ten minutes remaining. But the USF defense, led by senior Joe Valencia, stood firm.
The match also began to take on a more physical tone in the second half. A total of 51 fouls were called in the match, and five players – three Bulls and two Nittany Lions – were shown yellow cards.
“They were very, very physical. They were definitely physical on our forwards,” Hackworth said.
Penn State outshot the Bulls 24-2 and extended its record at home this season to 8-0.
“The guys stuck to the game plan, and we had stellar performances all around,” said PSU coach Barry Gorman. “As long as you’re creating chances, eventually they’re going to fall.”
The Nittany Lions (13-4-1) tied their single-season school record with their 12th shutout of the year and will play No. 8 seed St. John’s next weekend.
USF (15-7) earned the right to play Penn State by defeating Akron (11-7-1) 2-1 Thursday night. Jeff Thwaites put the Bulls ahead in the 55th minute with his fifth penalty kick goal of the year, after a foul on forward Simba Harris in the Akron 18-yard box.
The Zips’ Kyle Veris answered at the 68:25 mark, scoring from the left side of the box with a double assist by Hans Houghland and David Senn.
Midfielder Kevin Cowan fired in the winner less than seven minutes later, taking a pass through the middle from Harris and shot into goal from the right side. Harris was playing in place of senior Jason Cudjoe, who was serving a suspension for a red card in the Conference USA Tournament. Cudjoe returned to play Sunday.
Although the Bulls gave a good account of themselves Sunday, Hackworth said he was heartbroken that they did not go further in the NCAAs.
“I’ll say this: I’m proud of my team, and they played well. They fought extremely hard,” Hackworth said. “But our goal was to be in Columbus, Ohio, for the Final Four. So this is heartbreaking for us.
“(I won’t) coach Jason Cudjoe or Matt Cavenaugh or Joe Valencia ever again as college players. I love those guys and I’m going to miss them tremendously.”
- Khari Williams covers men’s soccer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org