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Round of 16 not sweet for USF

Connecticut 5, USF 0

The third time wasn’t a charm for the men’s soccer team.

USF dropped its Sweet 16 match to Connecticut, bringing its season and championship hopes to an end.

Saturday was the third time the Bulls fell to the Huskies this season, making them now 0-7 all-time against their Big East rival.

“Obviously this was a big year for the program,” coach George Kiefer said. “To make it to the Sweet 16 in a year when everyone said we were rebuilding is an accomplishment. I think a lot of our guys that are coming back got great experience. I’m happy with the season overall, but I’m disappointed with today.

USF finishes the year with a record of 5-3 against ranked opponents. All three losses came against the Huskies.

“They’re a great team,” junior forward Jordan Seabrook said. “When they’re clicking the way they were today and playing on their field it’s tough to beat them.”

The Huskies got the scoring started early as Connecticut’s O’Brian White notched his first goal on the day in only the second minute. In the end, White would get his third hat trick of the season, with two of his goals being assisted by NCAA leader in assists Mike Pezza.

“I was disappointed to give up that early goal,” Kiefer said. “To fall behind that early, I thought, caused us to chase the game a little bit. Then he (White) scored again 20 minutes later, so that kind of had us on our heels. When they got one early in the second half though, that really took the wind out of our sails.”

Aside from the efforts of White, Connecticut would get goals from Akeem Priestley and Chukwudi Chijindu. The third-seeded Huskies now move on into the quarterfinals where they’ll face Virginia Tech on Saturday.

For the Bulls, the year is over, but there are numerous positives to be taken from the 2007 season.

USF finished at 14-6-2 for the season, tying the school record for wins, and went to the Sweet 16 for the second time in school history. They were ranked by most of the major college soccer polls for the majority of the season and improved Kiefer’s record to 64-38-14 since taking over in 2002.

Five USF players, including senior Simon Schoendorf earned spots on the Big East all-conference team. Schoendorf, who Kiefer said earlier this year will be a good professional somewhere, had a career season with seven goals and 13 assists.

The Bulls will lose only two other seniors, as defender Tony D’Oyley Jr. and midfielder Kris Raad concluded their USF careers with Sunday’s loss. The majority of this USF team, however, can chalk this one up as experience under its belt.

The Bulls can also feel good about their offensive capabilities for next year. USF outscored its opponents 40-23 for the year with 33 of their goals from underclassmen.

The five goals scored by the Huskies are the most the Bulls’ defense has given up all season.

“O’Brian White showed why he’s leading the country in goals and points today,” Kiefer said. “It’s something we did a better job of dealing with the second time we played them this season, but in this one we never really bounced back from that early goal.”

Disappointment is inevitable for the Bulls at this point. For players like Seabrook, who is coming back next year, this loss is something to build on and learn from for the future.

“I can’t put into words how disappointing this is,” Seabrook said. “I think everybody here understands, though, that we did all we could and we had a good season even though we fell short of our goal. Every year has its ups and downs, and this one was no different. We played some good soccer and I think that this game was a one-in-a-thousand type game. Unfortunately, today was the day it had to happen.”