The men’s soccer team withstood a barrage of late attacks en route to a 2-1 victory over the Colgate University Raiders in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday.
The win improves the Bulls’ all-time tournament record to 7-9-2 and advances them to second-round play against Akron on Wednesday. USF’s home record improves to 9-1 on the season.
Friday’s victory wasn’t as easy or as well-executed as some of the Bulls’ previous home wins this season, however, as they were outshot 11-9 and struggled in preventing the Raiders from creating opportunities around the goal.
“I knew with it being an NCAA tournament game it would be tough because everybody is fighting for their lives,” coach George Kiefer said. “I give them a lot of credit for being very organized. After not playing for two weeks I didn’t think we were as sharp as we could be ,but to get a win when you’re not at your best is a good sign.”
The Bulls dominated the first half. Coming out of the gate, Kiefer’s team looked organized and moved the ball well. Early chances yielded good shot opportunities but USF couldn’t find the back of the net.
In the 19th minute, the opening score came on a goal by junior midfielder Jason Devenish. The Bulls were able to get the ball out wide to Simon Schoendorf, who had plenty of space around him. He sent the ball across the box on the ground where Devenish was waiting to slide a shot past the keeper and into the bottom right corner of the net to give the Bulls a 1-0 lead.
The game went to halftime with the Bulls up by one and looking confident and steady in their attack. Friday’s match was Colgate’s first appearance in the tournament in 41 years. Sensing that their hopes of advancing were in danger, the Raiders intensified their play in the second half.
Early in the 54th minute, the Raiders found the equalizer on an error by Bulls goalkeeper Diego Restrepo.
Colgate junior defender Glenn Volk found himself in possession just inside USF territory. He moved the ball a short distance and took a shot from 30 yards out that seemed routine for Restrepo. The sophomore couldn’t handle it cleanly, however, as the ball slid through his fingers and into the back of the net, knotting the match at 1-1.
“I saw it,” Restrepo said. “It just moved on me at the last second and I guess was somewhere else. It was like a brain fart. I just reacted and when I looked down the ball was in the back of the net.”
Friday was not Restrepo’s best performance, as mistakes by the sophomore goalkeeper began to pile up in the second half.
“This was a tough game for me personally,” Restrepo said. “It was a good experience, though. Luckily we came away with a win. My teammates saved me with the way they kept fighting and now I just have to focus on being sharp for the next game.”
The tie lasted 18 minutes. After a series of set piece opportunities and crosses through the box that no one was able to punch in, it was the Bulls’ team captain, Yohance Marshall, who would save the day.
Junior midfielder Kevon Neaves launched a cross into the box that sailed to the far post through a sea of flying bodies. On the other end, Marshall was able to get his legs on it and put a shot past Colgate keeper David Cappuccio to give the Bulls a
The lead wasn’t safe, however. Minutes later Restrepo was caught out of position, leaving the goal wide open for a Colgate shot attempt. Marshall once again saved the day as he successfully stepped in and deflected the shot attempt out of bounds.
“I just happened to be there at the right time,” Marshall said. “Everyone was trying to get back and I knew Diego wasn’t there, so my first reaction was to cover the goal. He sliced it and I was able to get a piece of it.”
Though that play undoubtedly saved the game for USF, it wasn’t the last close call of the match. On a free kick near the sideline in the closing minutes, the Raiders were able to get a header past Restrepo that hit the post and came back into play. The follow-up shot was sent wide and high of the goal by Colgate, allowing the Bulls to escape the final push by the Raiders.
“We gave away the ball a lot in front of them in the second half,” Kiefer said. “We knew that they were good in transition and they showed it. They played their forwards up high which surprised me a bit because I thought they were going sit back more and defend so I give them credit for that. I think that we just need to clean things up a little bit, but it’s not something that will be difficult to fix.”