Bulls’ trek continues

With a trip to Connecticut and its season on the line, the men’s soccer team ended a scoreless game 45 seconds into the second overtime against No. 14 Akron.

After being outshot 17-7 and forcing USF goalkeeper Diego Restrepo to make several big saves, the Bulls got their chance early in the second extra session. Following a foul that earned Akron’s Devin McKenney a yellow card, the Bulls had a free kick from 15 yards outside the box.

Senior Simon Schoendorf put in a cross that found a crowd around the goal. After bouncing off a player and being punched by Akron keeper Evan Bush, Bulls team captain Yohance Marshall headed it from five yards out to give the Bulls the win. It was Marshall’s second game-winner of the NCAA Tournament.

“The keeper punched it straight at me,” Marshall said. “It went off my chest and that was it. We had the goal.”

The key to the match, however, was the goalkeeping of Restrepo, a freshman. The Columbia native saved 10 shots on the night, giving the Bulls a chance after a first half dominated by Akron.

“To have success at this level you have to be good in goal,” coach George Kiefer said. “Akron’s is one of the better attacking teams. Diego’s a big-time goalkeeper and at times tonight he put the team on his back, kept us in the game.”

Restrepo struggled against Colgate in the first round. His performance against Akron, however, had his coaches feeling good about his ability to learn from that experience.

“That’s the great thing about Diego – he always bounces back,” Kiefer said. “To shut Akron out at home in 30-degree weather in extra time shows everybody on this team’s resilience.”

Restrepo held on to a shutout despite Akron exploiting holes in the USF defense. It was his ninth of the season, bringing him into a tie for the all-time school record for shutouts.

“With every save Diego made, our confidence built,” Marshall said. “We were trying to play better so he wasn’t so busy back there, but in the end he just saved us.”

The game was physical from the start as each team committed its share of fouls. By the conclusion, 25 fouls had been whistled, 13 belonging to USF.

The Zips were both prepared and rested for an extra-time match, having played only two games in the last 25 days. Both games went into overtime with the Zips emerging victorious on their way to a Mid-American Conference championship.

Playing like conference champions, Akron dominated the ball for most of regulation and even held the upper hand all the way through the first overtime.

In the end, it was a set piece opportunity – which the Bulls had plenty of Wednesday night – that finished off the

Zips’ season.

For Schoendorf, who delivered the ball to Marshall to head into the box, each game is his last. He now has 14 assists to go with his seven goals in career senior season.

The win takes the Bulls as far as any USF team has ever been in the NCAA tournament, and is the furthest the soccer team has gone under Kiefer.

While relishing the victory, the team will prepare for third-round action Sunday in Storrs, Conn., where it will face a Huskies team it has lost to twice this season. For now, though, the Bulls can just be satisfied with their progress.

“Akron was undefeated at home this year,” Kiefer said. “It’s good after all that to be able to get the goal off of a restart and come away with a win. We’re all looking forward to going home, getting some rest and preparing for Connecticut.”