Aerow on target

The Bulls were reacquainted with an old friend at the USF Soccer Stadium in the first round game of the Big East Tournament on Wednesday night.

The Bulls (9-5-4) used the Nike Total 90 Aerow ball, the official Big East Tournament ball, for the first time since the 2005 season and rolled to a 5-1 victory over Seton Hall (9-8-1).

The Bulls advanced to the quarterfinals to play No. 4 West Virginia in Morgantown on Saturday. USF tied the Mountaineers 2-2 on Sept. 15 at home.

USF played with the Total 90 Aerow in all of its home games last season, finishing 13-6-2 with a Red Division title and 2.1 goals scored per game. This year, USF switched to the Nike Mercurial Speed, and the Bulls scored just 1.2 goals per game until Wednesday.

“I’m wondering what the heck we did this year using the other ball,” coach George Kiefer said. “But in fairness to that ball, the guys were buzzing around yesterday in practice real excited about using it.”

The Bulls scored five goals for the first time since Sept. 4, 2005, when they beat Jacksonville 6-3. It was also the first time USF scored at least five goals in a conference game since 1984.

The Bulls struck early when midfielder Rodrigo Hidalgo scored on a penalty kick just 90 seconds into the game.

“We just knew that this game was one of those games that you had to come out in the beginning,” Hidalgo said. “That’s been a problem the whole season. We’ve waited ’til the last minute.”

The goal was USF’s earliest score this season. The previous was in the eighth minute of the Sept. 15 win against West Virginia, also on a Hidalgo penalty kick.

“I don’t know how many goals (Hidalgo) scored last year (in the postseason),” Kiefer said. “But he’s always getting goals or getting assists. The kid knows when to turn it on.”

Hidalgo also scored an unassisted goal in the 29th minute that grazed Seton Hall’s goalkeeper and slowly rolled into the net.

“What I heard was that everyone thought I was going to go for the corner kick,” Hidalgo said. “As soon as the second defender came along the way, I kind of just rolled the ball, I saw him totally commit to that side, so I just tried to get by him. I saw the goalie coming up to cover (a potential pass) to (forward) Hunter (West), so I just took it into the front post. And with a little push from God, it went in.”

Hidalgo was not the only producer for the Bulls. West and midfielders Kris Raad and Anthony D’Oyley contributed to the scoring. It was both Raad and D’Oyley’s first goal of the year.

“When Ogi (Perucica) passed me the ball, I thought a defender was going to come up to me,” D’Oyley said of the Bulls’ final goal. “But no one was there, so I made a good use of the opportunity of putting (the game) away.”

Kiefer hinted that the change to the new ball would never have been made if it yielded different results for the team.

“If I had known (that) back in August,” Kiefer said with a chuckle. “If we could have just used a different ball, I would have.”