The USF men’s soccer team better pack a couple of sweaters.
The Bulls face off against Providence in the semifinal round of the Big East Tournament in Storrs, Conn., on Friday, where the game-time forecast is calling for near-freezing temperatures. But the weather in New England isn’t as big of a surprise as the Bulls’ less-than-balmy record in cold-weather games.
Under coach George Kiefer, the Bulls are 4-7-1 in weather 60 degrees or colder and 1-5-1 in 50-degree weather.
“It’s definitely hard to play in cold weather,” sophomore Rodrigo Hidalgo said. “But it’s not as hard as playing in cold and rainy weather.”
A cold front should pass through Storrs by Friday, but it is bringing rain and possibly the coldest temperatures the Bulls have ever experienced. Under Kiefer, the lowest temperature the team has played in was 44 degrees in a match on Oct. 24, 2003, at East Carolina, and a game on Oct. 9 of this year at Syracuse. This Friday’s forecast calls for a high of 46 degrees and a low of 28.
USF first dealt with unpleasant conditions this season in a match against Rutgers on Oct. 22. A cold and steady rain unsettled the Bulls’ offense as they managed only seven shots in the game and dropped the match to the Scarlet Knights 3-0.
According to goalkeeper Dane Brenner, the Bulls have a difficult time moving the ball in adverse conditions.
“We like to play soccer on the ground – soccer that looks good – soccer that you want to play on the next level,” Brenner said. “But when it’s rainy and stuff like that, we can’t play that soccer. If it’s going to rain and it’s going to be muddy, then it makes it hard to play the soccer we like to play.”
The Bulls are 1-2 this season in cold weather – game temperature below 60 degrees – but they did conquer the cold by defeating Louisville 4-1 in 53-degree temperature.
Hidalgo said the Bulls are becoming more seasoned when it comes to dealing with the weather.
“I think that we learned from experience from the Rutgers game,” Hidalgo said. “I think that we’ll be more prepared for that type of situation.”
Kiefer is concerned with preparing his players and will be working all week on keeping his players mentally ready.
“The weather is a state of mind,” Kiefer said. “We’re going to have our guys ready to go there, and we’re going to be the best team from Tampa that plays in the cold. It’s all a state of mind. If you let it get to you, then it will, so hopefully they can be mentally tough with that.”
Hidalgo echoed the need for increased focus.
“It’s all what you think of it. You can go up there and say, ‘Oh my god, it’s freezing,’ and hide under your sweaters,” he said. “Or you can put it in your head and say, ‘Hey, it’s not cold; let’s play, let’s get warm, let’s warm up and play this game.'”
If the Bulls can warm up and handle whatever the weather throws at them, then all they have to worry about is an upstart Providence team. If they can pull out a victory, the forecast for the championship game on Sunday is mostly sunny skies with a high of 57.