With what coach George Kiefer called “our best effort of the year so far,” the USF men’s soccer team earned its fifth shutout of the season at Marquette, defeating the Golden Eagles 1-0 in Milwaukee on Saturday.
“I was really pleased with how the team worked hard as a unit,” Kiefer said. “We went in, got our hands dirty and won a lot of the loose stuff.”
Junior midfielder Aaron Paroulek’s second goal of the season was enough to give the Bulls (8-3-0, 3-2-0 in Conference USA) three points in the league standings and their first C-USA victory since Sept. 20 against Memphis.
Senior captain Jeff Thwaites returned from an assortment of leg injuries, taking the field as a substitute and providing the assist, his fifth of the year, on Paroulek’s 63rd-minute winner. Thwaites passed into the 18-yard box and Paroulek got his foot on Marquette’s clearance, shooting past Eagles keeper Adam Ubert from 15 yards out.
“Our attack really clicked, and if we can sustain the kind of momentum that we built in (Saturday’s) game, I think we’re going to be tough,” Kiefer said.
Bulls assistant coach Jim Felix said the conditions at Valley Field were somewhat cold, windy and wet, and the dimensions of the field — a bigger field with plenty of room in the corners — suited Marquette’s counter-attacking, wing-based attack. But he agreed that the Bulls’ performance was their best of the season in terms of ball possession and field coverage.
“It was a total effort on both sides of the ball,” Felix said.
Marquette sent the Bulls out of the C-USA Tournament in Tampa last fall and lost in the championship game. However, Felix said the revenge factor was downplayed in match preparation, with the emphasis placed instead on the importance of winning a conference game on the road.
After five consecutive road games, the Bulls face league leader and defending C-USA regular season and tourney champion Saint Louis at home Saturday. The No. 14 Billikens (9-2-1, 4-1) are atop the C-USA standings and have won nine straight matches after opening the season with a tie and two losses, including one to Marquette.
“Saint Louis is Saint Louis, and you just prepare for them the best you can,” said Felix. “They’re the cream of the conference, everybody knows that. They’re the watermark that we measure a lot of things by.”