For the second week in a row, USF soccer will be facing a conference opponent ranked nationally in the top 10.
After pulling a 2-1 upset against UAB at home last Saturday, the Bulls will travel to St. Louis to face the No. 5 Billikens. Not only are the Billikens ranked nationally, they are having their homecoming this weekend, and are known for large crowds at soccer games.
“I love games like this,” USF coach George Kiefer said. “Since (the beginning of the season) we have been talking about being a family. (This weekend) we are going to work with each other, protect each other and go after (St. Louis).”
Even though it appears that USF has a lot stacked against them, the Bulls, for once, will not be at an age disadvantage — the Billikens will start seven freshmen, Kiefer said. St. Louis’ recruiting class was ranked No. 2 the country in the offseason.
“I bet it does relax them a bit — a non-senior-loaded team,” Kiefer said.
Conference USA has been an unusually tough conference this season, but Kiefer said it has nothing to do with the talented program that the Billikens have.
“C-USA is very tough, but if you look back the past 30 years, St. Louis is a premiere team in college soccer,” Kiefer said.
Kiefer said he is looking to bring USF to the status that St. Louis has achieved, and playing big games and tough competition is crucial to that goal.
“I think by playing the best teams you can help (the) guys,” Kiefer said. “We have to be comfortable in that (environment).”
A top team needs top players, and the Bulls have found that in Hunter West, but the sophomore standout has been in a lull. After scoring more than half of USF’s goals in its first five matches, West has not found the net since, going five games without a score.
“We are at a point right now where Hunter needs to get one (goal) and he’ll find the net a lot more,” Kiefer said. “I’m excited to see him get (a goal) because I know a lot more will come.”
During West’s scoring drought, other players have stepped up and scored goals, but not as fast as Kiefer would have liked. Despite the timing, Kiefer said he is beginning to feel better about his younger players.
“King and Suarez did not get off to the start we would have liked,” Kiefer said. “But they are stepping up and have taken a big knot out of my stomach.”
Kiefer added that he is not worried about this weekend’s competition. Quite the contrary, he is near ecstatic and he wants that to rub off on his players.
“I am going to wake up (Saturday), and won’t be able to wait for the 7:00 start,” Kiefer said. “I hope my guys are like that too.”