After a late rally at the end of the season, the USF men’s soccer team will play the Charlotte 49ers tonight at 6 in the first round of the Conference USA tournament in Memphis.
The Bulls, who began conference play at 1-3-1, had little, if any, hope of participating in the C-USA tournament. But as the season progressed, the Bulls’ fortunes changed. With four conference match-ups left, the Bulls went on a 3-0-1 conference jaunt, putting them in the conference tournament.
“We are going to be doing what we have been doing in the last month or so and that’s just going one at a time,” USF coach George Kiefer said. “The one thing I reminded the guys of is that when we left the field against Charlotte at home. It was a pretty low point in the season.”
But just because the Bulls made the conference tournament, Kiefer said that doesn’t mean the rest of the season will be easy.
“The one thing that I am hitting the guys on now, is making sure that they are not satisfied,” Kiefer said. “When you work so hard to accomplish something it is easy for complacency to set it in and that they are happy, that they feel like they did what they needed to do.”
Charlotte, who is the No. 4 seed in the tournament, finished the season with the same conference record as the Bulls (4-3-2), but beat USF 2-1 on Sept. 12 in the Bulls’ first conference match. Kiefer said his team still realizes they should have won that day.
“It’s not often in life that you get second chances, so we are just going to try and beat Charlotte,” Kiefer said.
The Bulls have a better chance of defeating the 49ers tonight then they did in September, Kiefer said. History, however, is not behind the Bulls. USF has not beaten Charlotte since the 1999 season.
“They are a tough, hard-working group, but I feel much more confident about our team now then I did in early September,” Kiefer said.
If the Bulls are going to beat Charlotte, they may have to do it without banking on a goal from sophomore Hunter West. The striker coincidentally has not seen the back of the net since the first Charlotte match, but he contributes to the offense in other ways, Kiefer said. Despite being on a 12-game drought, West still leads the team in goals with seven, is second in assists with three and leads the team in shots on goal with 19.
“He works hard every time he goes out,” Kiefer said. “He has been getting assists, he has been coming real close to getting goals. I can’t predict the future, but if I had to guess if someone was going to score a goal for us (today), I would think that he would be involved in it, because he has been involved in almost every one.”
Kiefer said he has confidence in his team and doesn’t think that there is a conference member out there that the Bulls can’t beat.
“I think we can compete with any team in the conference when our guys show up and play,” Kiefer said.