Youth has been served.
The men’s soccer team – as young as the players are – are moving on, traveling to Connecticut.
The team advanced to the semifinals of the Big East Tournament, and even in the new conference, it’s the deepest the team has been in a postseason under coach George Kiefer.Kiefer has made the tournament in every year he’s been at USF, but something is a little different this year.
“We’re younger this year,” goalkeeper Dane Brenner said. “It’s funny, but we’re younger this year and we just seem to want it more.”
With just one departing senior – midfielder Brian Gil – the Bulls boast a starting lineup with three freshman and three sophomores.
And their leading scorer – speedy forward Jordan Seabrook with his 11 goals and eight assists – is also a freshman.
“We have more experience as a team altogether,” midfielder Simon Schoendorf said. “Last year, you had these players: (Rodrigo Hidalgo), myself as freshman, and now we have a better team chemistry, better team spirit, and I just think we are figuring each other out this year.”
The youth is bonding. The youth has been working since July, and now it’s paying off.
Best record in the Big East. The semifinals. What does that say about those young whippersnappers?
“We’ve got more talent this year. I wish I could say it’s coaching, but it’s the players,” said Kiefer, who is 40-25-5 at USF. “I mean that. We have better players and better leadership.”
So perhaps it’s a happy balance, where the teetering scale has enough experience on one side and enough youth and vigor on the other to keep the team levelheaded. It’s where enough of the youth – Hidalgo, Schoendorf – has jumped to the experienced side, and the youth – Seabrook, Joris Claessens, Yohance Marshall, Kevon Neaves, Jason Devenish – has maintained the balance on their side.
“Dane and Hunter (West),” Kiefer said, “these two guys are really good at cutting things off early and keeping the chemistry good. They’re good at being disciplined on Thursday night when social students like to have fun. They’ve given a little up and this team has been willing to do it.”
That’s a long step up from the years where there have been few senior starters at all.
Kiefer’s recruits – and his recruiting classes are always ranked as one of the best in the nation – are growing up. It had been like riding a bike with training wheels at first, but now these players are ready to jump on a Kawasaki motorcycle and take off deep into the postseason.
“After three recruiting classes, it’s starting to pay off,” Kiefer said. “It’s talent; it’s the players and how far they’ve come.”
And now that chemistry is showing. It’s mixing and bonding to these players’ psyches, and these young players will not dance around what they really want.
“We hate losing,” Brenner said. “We do whatever it takes to win a game and refuse to lose. When we’re playing and we are down, we look at each other and realize we’re not playing our best. We’ll just look around and go, ‘Let’s go. Come on. It’s time to stop fooling around and start doing our jobs.'”
The youth is in agreement.
“We are more confident this year,” Schoendorf said. “We really want to prove to people we’re one of the best teams around. Last year, we were mad at each other because we had no recognition at the end of the year, and we’re in the procedure of doing so right now.”
Confidence in the young has brought only five losses all season.
A new conference has brought excelling players ready for more. But is it all thanks to the Big East?
“I think if we were in any conference we’d be doing well,” Kiefer said.
The service is good.