The men’s soccer team kicked off its season with victories over in-state rivals Central Florida and Stetson.
Collecting all six points from the first weekend of play was a priority for the Bulls as the
season gets underway.
“It’s great to start off well,” forward Jordan Seabrook said. “The last couple years we’ve had some trouble in the first couple weekends, and that was something we’d have to battle back from.”
It was the experience of players like Seabrook, junior midfielder Kevon Neaves and senior forward Simon Schoendorf that helped the Bulls during a 5-2 victory over UCF.
“Getting good performances out of experienced guys is a huge positive,” coach George Kiefer said. “Those are the guys I’m going to hold accountable for keeping games tighter as the season moves forward.”
The score didn’t reflect the physicality and intensity of the match. The Bulls trailed after only four minutes, when goalkeeper Diego Restrepo abandoned his position to try to clear a cross and had the ball headed over him, giving UCF the early lead.
The Bulls struggled to finish scoring opportunities they created early. But in the 26th minute, Schoendorf was fouled in the box and earned a penalty kick.
Team captain Yohance Marshall took the penalty but was blocked by the Knights’ goalkeeper. It looked like another blown opportunity until Marshall was fouled
attempting to rebound the block. On the second penalty attempt, Neaves stepped up and put it away, tying the score at 1-1.
The game wouldn’t stay tied for long. Just one minute later the Bulls got the ball out wide to Schoendorf, who put a cross into the box where a
waiting Seabrook was able to sneak one past the keeper. It was Schoendorf’s first of two assists that night and carried the Bulls into the half with a 2-1 lead.
“I think the team showed a lot of maturity tonight,” Kiefer said. “We went down a goal in a physical game, but we didn’t worry about the refs or what they (UCF) were doing. I thought everybody responded well, and we learned some good team lessons tonight.”
The Bulls would increase their lead only 10 minutes into the second half after Seabrook laid a ball off for Neaves, who sent a shot into the back of the net, giving the Bulls a 3-1 lead.
“It was a great touch by Jordan to get it out to me,” Neaves said. “It feels great to be able to put one like that away, but you can’t do it without some help.”
Two minutes after a Knights’ goal brought the score to 3-2, the Bulls responded with yet another goal. This time it was freshman forward Tony Taylor, who scored the first goal of his career with USF.
The onslaught of USF goals was capped off in the 84th
minute, when Neaves made a run up the sideline and put a cross onto the foot of Seabrook for his second goal of the night.
“I think tonight was a good tune up,” Seabrook said. “We play in the Big East – there are a lot of big boys, but if we can keep our cool and put the ball in the back of the net we’ll be fine, and that’s what we did tonight.”
The second match had the Bulls traveling to Stetson to face former Bulls coach Logan Fleck. The contest was again physical, but the Bulls were able to control the pace of play and walk away with a 1-0 victory.
The only goal of the match came in the 64th minute when defender Joris Claessens was able to sneak one past the Hatters goalkeeper on an assist from Neaves.
The match was the first shutout for freshman goalkeeper Restrepo.
“I felt we played solid defensively tonight,” Kiefer said. “Diego did a great job in the net. He stayed sharp to make some good saves, even though he wasn’t tested very often in the match.”