Only days after losing to Cincinnati, the players on the USF men’s soccer team must pick their heads up and focus on another heated conference battle: No. 25 UAB.
While the nine-game unbeaten streak is over, the Bulls have moved down a few spots in the national rankings to No.11 and will travel to Birmingham, Ala. to face the Blazers at West Campus Field tonight at 7.
USF (7-1-2, 3-1-1 C-USA) leads the all-time series 11-4 while UAB (7-4-0, 4-1-0 C-USA) has never beaten Bulls’ coach George Kiefer during his three-year tenure. But that doesn’t mean the game will be just another casual meeting in Conference USA. As of Tuesday’s standings, UAB was third and USF was right behind at fourth in the conference.
USF captain Hunter West, who is second in scoring on the team with 11 points, says he was upset with the loss Saturday but knows his team will step up against conference teams.
“Its like a big test, considering (Cincinnati) was our first loss,” West said. “I think the most important thing is how we bounce back; how we are going to do against UAB after going down against Cincinnati.
“We have a lot of young guys on our team, and hopefully we’ll step up to the test and just play our game and hopefully bring out a ‘W’.”
West says he was frustrated with last week’s loss, but he was even more discontented with the way he and his team played against Cincinnati. Saturday’s scoring chances for the Bulls were marginal at best, but the players realize getting back on track will consist of getting back to the basics.
“Being one of the captains and the leaders, I’ve talked to several of the younger players,” West said. “Obviously they haven’t suffered a loss yet, but that’s part of the game, unfortunately. UAB is a tough place to go into and play. Hopefully I can step up as a leader and help us bounce back.
“When we practice, some of the things we’ll be doing is some of the things we didn’t do against Cincinnati. We didn’t recover in that game, and in the next few practices we’re going to help our team recover, because that’s part of the big reason why we didn’t do well in the previous game. I guess it was just a reality check.”
Now USF is faced with the final leg of its schedule. Of the six games remaining, four are against C-USA opponents and include a match facing a future Big East foe: No. 10 St. John’s.
So, as the Bulls put the unbeaten streak behind them and breathe a sigh of relief now that the pressure of staying undefeated has disappeared, getting back on track seems to be as easy as showing up for practice.
“I guess you could say it’s some type of relief,” West said. “I wasn’t planning on going undefeated this season, so you could say it’s some weight off our backs. Losing is part of the game, and hopefully we can learn from this experience and some of the things we didn’t do and hopefully bring out a positive in this whole experience — especially for the new players.”