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Reigning Big East champs turn page to 2009 season

The USF men’s soccer team received plenty of national attention last fall when it won the program’s first Big East soccer championship and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.

However, the Bulls enter this season with the loss of some very experienced players, USF coach George Kiefer said.

USF lost senior defender Yohance Marshall, who is now with the Los Angeles Galaxy, forward Jordan Seabrook, who ranked fifth in the Big East in scoring last year with 18 points, and defender Kevon Neaves, who signed a professional contract with the Swedish second division soccer club Koping FF over the summer.

“Those guys have been staples here,” Kiefer said at USF soccer media day. “It’s a little different feeling without them. They’ve been here for four years.”

Kiefer, who has a 79-43-16 record during his seven seasons at USF, returns senior Zak Boggs, who gave the Bulls steady play at forward opposite Seabrook last year, scoring five goals and dishing out five assists. Boggs was 10th in the Big East in scoring with 15 points.

“You could look at it as a weakness that we lost five starters or as a strength,” Kiefer said. “I look it as a strength, because it provides opportunities for different players.”

With the loss of Seabrook, Boggs said he doesn’t feel any added pressure to carry the offensive load, though.

“Last year, we were really balanced, and this year should be the same way,” Boggs said.

Kiefer can also turn to a recruiting class that ESPN ranked the 13th best in the country, which includes Florida’s 2008 Gatorade Player of the Year, forward Hasani Sinclair.

Kiefer isn’t quick to put his younger players on the spot, however.

“It seems like every year we bring in a talented class,” he said. “To say who will (have an impact), it would be irresponsible for me to speculate. I’ve seen them in other environments but not at USF, playing at this level, this speed.”

With Boggs at forward, Kiefer will likely employ a five-man midfield, which could include senior captain Francisco Aristeguieta, Jorge Mora, junior Fernando Gonzales, who played in 22 games last season and sophomores Bernardo Anor and Sebastien Thuriere.

Aristeguieta scored his only two goals last season when the Bulls defeated Notre Dame 2-1 in the Big East semifinals. Anor started the first six games of the 2008 season before tearing his ACL. Thuriere scored USF’s game-winner against St. John’s in the Big East final.

Despite the loss of Marshall in defense, USF returns two starters, freshman Aubrey Perry and junior Javed Mohammed.

The Bulls will be anchored again by junior goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, who only gave up 0.68 goals per game last season.

Despite the loss of some key players, Kiefer said he’s confident in his team to progress through the season.

“The goal is that they come out and focus each day,” Kiefer said. “If we can get a little better every day, we’ll be in good shape. They need to enjoy themselves as we compete for what we’re competing for.”