Freshman Sebastien Thuriere put his jersey over his face and sprinted to the student section behind the goal, where he was thronged by fans and teammates after scoring the game-winning goal against St. John’s on Sunday.
The win gives the South Florida men’s soccer team its first Big East championship victory in school history.
“I really don’t even know how I feel right now,” said Thuriere, who was named Most Outstanding Offensive Performer. “I’m still in shock, but I know it’s a great feeling.”
Thuriere found himself alone about eight yards in front of the goal after St. John’s goalkeeper Neal Kitson deflected a cross from senior Jordan Seabrook.
“We strung together five or six passes right before we scored,” Thuriere said. “The ball just came to me. I was pretty close to the goal and I just did what I had to do.”
Seabrook said practice made the goal a reality.
“It was a culmination of a lot of hard work,” he said. “We won the ball after a nice hard tackle at midfield. We ran but didn’t give up after it looked like to play was dead. It was the perfect goal. Our persistence paid off in the end.”
The Bulls not only avenged a regular season loss to the Red Storm, but accomplished what they set out to do from the beginning: win the Big East final.
“One of the goals at the beginning of the year was to win the final and go undefeated at home,” coach George Kiefer said. “They’ve accomplished that. If you have high goals and come close, you’re in good shape.”
He said that despite their lofty goal, the Bulls tried not to put too much pressure on themselves.
“Sometimes you get to a final and teams make the mistake of going out to win something,” Kiefer said. “The focus was to go out and do the little things to beat St. John’s. We made a commitment to look each other in the eye at the end of it and be Big East champions. They honored that commitment.”
Thuriere wasn’t the only player who received an award. Senior defender Yohance Marshall was named Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the tournament.
“It’s an accomplishment. My first year I got a taste of what it would be like to be in a final, and I always wanted to be in a final again,” Marshall said. “My sophomore and junior year we didn’t make it, but my senior year — it’s my last year to go out with a bang. It’s kind of overwhelming. I can’t explain my emotions.”
Marshall said he enjoyed seeing the team’s rise.
“It’s all hard work and dedication, starting with coach, then the players must believe and follow through with it. It’s an entire team effort,” he said.
Accomplishing all of this in front of a home crowd made the day even more special for the team.
“It’s absolutely incredible. It’s the best feeling,” Seabrook said. “I knew it’d be great, but when it actually happened, it was even better than I possibly could’ve imagined. To have our fans come out on a Sunday afternoon when they could be doing anything and to have that many people come out — it’s a huge pleasure to play for fans that great.”