A two-game road trip this weekend has given the USF men’s soccer team new life and renewed hopes of a berth in the Conference USA tournament.
After a 1-0 win against conference worst East Carolina Friday and a 2-2 tie against conference best Louisville Sunday, the Bulls are 2-3-2 in C-USA play with two conference games still to play. Ten-team C-USA invites the top six finishers to the conference tournament, and the winner of that in turn is guaranteed berth in the NCAA tournament. After a win and a tie this weekend, the Bulls still have a shot to make the top six.
“We think it is very realistic if we focus on what we have to do instead of getting (to the tournament),” USF coach George Kiefer said.
To have any chance of qualifying, USF must win its next two matches. But even then, the Bulls’ fate depends on other results going its way. Kiefer believes his team has a chance, and if they want to win the next two games they have to focus on the games and not on the tournament he said.
“We don’t want to make the focus on getting into the tournament,” Kiefer said.
Against the East Carolina Pirates, who have not yet won a game in C-USA, the Bulls broke the deadlock in the 27th minute. C.D. Harris’ headed goal past Pirates goalkeeper Brian Pope proved to be the only goal of the game.
The real test came on Sunday when USF visited Louisville after catching a 5 a.m. flight from Greenberg, N.C. With a 5-2-2 record in C-USA, the Cardinals lead the conference and had won four of their last five games going into Sunday’s match.
USF led the Cardinals early after Kevin King and Brandon Streicher both scored in the first 15 minutes giving the Bulls a 2-0 lead.
“We were up two goals,” Kiefer said. “But Louisville is a dangerous team.”
The Cardinals proved how lethal they can be coming back to tie the game 2-2 with two goals in two minutes at the end of the first half. Freshman Marco Terminesi and sophomore Ryan Edwards both scored off deflections to give the Cardinals the momentum going into the second half.
The Bulls, however, kept the Cardinals at bay throughout the second half and for two overtime periods and traveled back to Tampa with a tie.
“(The tie) says a lot about (our) character,” Kiefer said. “I give (my) guys a ton of credit (and) I hope they focus the next two weeks to get into the tournament.”
Despite struggling this season, Kiefer is proud of his team.
“I take my hat off to (my) young team and a tough schedule,” Kiefer said. “It seems like they are getting stronger.”