USF entered Saturday night’s game against St. John’s in third place in the Big East Red Division. The Bulls left in fourth.
The Red Storm (9-5-2, 5-4-2) put a stop to the No. 23 Bulls’ (8-5-4, 4-3-4) five-game unbeaten streak in a 1-0 contest at Belson Stadium in Queens, N.Y. St. John’s swapped ranks with USF in the Red Division with the win.
“It’s very disappointing for the fact that, as a team, we all felt prepared to go up to St. John’s and come away with a result,” forward Rodrigo Hidalgo said. “Unfortunately, we gave up a goal early in the game, and as much as we pressured them in the second half, we were unable to get the equalizer, which is a little disappointing to us.”
The Red Storm scored in the 23rd minute of play on a low cross into the left-side netting by forward Ryan Soroka. The goal was his fifth of the year.
“St. John’s is a good team,” USF coach George Kiefer said. “Their record at home is a strong record, and I give them a lot of credit because (in) the first half, they came at us and did a good job.”
The Bulls were unable to get anything going in the first half. Only one of USF’s six shots on the night occurred in the first half, with zero shots on goal before the break.
“The first half, as a team, we weren’t able to really touch the ball,” Hidalgo said. “We couldn’t get more than five passes together because of St. John’s pressure.”
USF seemed to get things together after halftime, but it was too little, too late for the Bulls. USF had five shots in the second half and three shots on goal. Four of those five shots came from forward Jordan Seabrook and Hidalgo.
“I think the second half was obviously a bit of a preview of what we are able to do when we come together and work for each other,” Hidalgo said. “I just hope we can put it together for Wednesday’s match.”
Wednesday marks the first round of matches in the Big East Tournament. The Bulls host the 5th-seeded team in the Blue Division: Seton Hall. Hidalgo said that even though the first-round bye would have been an ideal situation for the Bulls entering the tournament, they’re happy with the position they are in to host a first-round game.
“Looking at the whole schedule, I would think that we’re pretty excited about our challenges,” Hidalgo said. “We have Seton Hall (on) Wednesday, and then the winner of that takes on West Virginia. From now on, we all understand that every game will be tough, and I think we’re going to be prepared. This last game we had was kind of a good preparation for what’s upcoming.”
Hidalgo is confident the Bulls will respond with more of an effort in the first half in the tournament.
“I think that now everyone knows it’s win or go home,” he said. “I think we’ll be able to come out from the beginning with intensity and be able to put it together from the first minute.”
Kiefer believes his players will fare well in the tournament.
“I think they’ll be ready,” Kiefer said. “Our team after a loss usually responds pretty good. I think they’ll be ready. I think it’ll be a good night.”