The USF men’s soccer team’s C-USA tournament run ended as quickly as it began on Friday as the Bulls lost 2-0 to St. Louis (9-7-1, 5-3-1 C-USA) at Cardinal Park in Louisville, Ky. The loss knocked the team out of the tournament in the first round after a postponement due to severe weather Thursday. Memphis captured its first-ever C-USA men’s soccer title on Sunday when it defeated UAB 3-2.
Fourth-seeded USF previously tied the Billikens 2-2 during the regular season on Sept. 25, but St. Louis shut down the Bulls defensively even though USF out shot its opponent 13-4.
The Billikens took the early lead only seven minutes into the game on a goal by forward Alex Matteson. The sophomore received a long pass from defender Brian Gasparovic and then chipped the ball over USF goalkeeper Dane Brenner’s head from 17 yards out.
The Bulls’ best opportunity to tie the game came from junior captain Hunter West when he took a shot 27 minutes into the game, but it was rejected by St. Louis goalkeeper Pat Disbennett.
Although they only took three shots on goal, the St. Louis offense took advantage of the Bulls’ defensive mistakes, when late in the game the Billikens put away an insurance goal to secure the win.
In the 77th minute of the game, Matteson scored his second goal when he exploited a USF defensive turnover and sent the ball past a diving Brenner.
Less than three minutes later, USF nearly put in a goal of its own when, on a free kick, freshman Christian Jimenez took a 25-yard shot, only to have the ball ricochet off the post and out of bounds.
For most of the season, the Bulls had been nationally ranked, going as high as No. 9. But a three-game conference skid sent them spiraling down in the rankings, and they never climbed back up after a 5-0 loss to St. John’s on Oct. 30.
USF did win its last two home games, both conference games, to notch a fourth seed in the tournament, but all was for naught on Friday afternoon. USF’s C-USA tournament record is now 13-8 all time.
Bulls’ head coach George Kiefer was proud of his players after the loss, as he has been all year, but knew the defensive mistakes were the death of his team.
“I’m disappointed for the guys,” Kiefer said. “I think they had a good first half. Giving up an early goal like that hurt. It gave St. Louis a chance to just sit back and defend, which they did a good job of. It was very difficult to get through them with the amount of numbers they had back there.”
USF (10-5-2, 5-4-1 C-USA) will wait and see if it qualifies for the NCAA Tournament today when the NCAA selection announcement airs at 4:30 p.m. on ESPNews.