All season, USF men’s soccer has played well under the pressure of sudden death overtime, picking up two wins and two ties. That good fortune ended Saturday when USF fell 2-1 to Saint Louis in the first period of overtime.
“We felt good going into overtime,” USF coach George Kiefer said. “We felt like we had things going our way.”
Things did not go USF’s way as the No. 5 Billikens (9-1-2, 4-1-1 C-USA) defeated the Bulls (4-5-2, 1-3-1) when freshman Will John put the ball past goalkeeper Dane Brenner in the ninth minute of overtime. John accepted a pass wide of the penalty box, dribbled twice and then slipped the ball under Brenner.
As if playing against the No. 5 program is not difficult enough, USF also had to contend with a homecoming-boosted crowd of nearly 6,000 at the Robert R. Herman Stadium generating an atmosphere to which the Bulls are not accustomed.
“I think in the first half, (the crowd) really threw our guys off and it got to a few of them,” Kiefer said.
Despite these disadvantages, USF held its own against the nationally ranked Billikens. Even though Saint Louis out shot the Bulls 12-3 in the first half, USF was the only team to score in the first period. Freshman Keeron Benito accepted a cross pass in the final minute of the half and scored just inside the left post to put the Bulls up 1-0.
“He is a very good player,” Kiefer said. “He is the kind of guy you can build a program around.”
The Bulls did not enjoy the lead for long. Saint Louis’ Vedad Ibisevic scored from six yards out on a corner kick that tied the game up at 1-1. In the second half, Saint Louis again out shot USF, this time 9-3, but the game had to be decided in overtime.
USF’s leading scorer Hunter West nearly scored the winning goal in overtime, but the ball went just above the crossbar. The sophomore standout is in a six-game scoring drought after scoring more than half of the Bulls’ total goals in their first five games.
“I honestly felt in my heart that (West) was going to win it for us in overtime,” Kiefer said. “A good team knows who Hunter is and shuts him down.”
With the loss, the Bulls fall to 1-3-1 in a conference currently topped by Saint Louis at 4-1-1. At the end of the season, the top six teams in the conference will move on to the C-USA tournament. USF is in eighth.