USF came into this season with high expectations after advancing to the quarterfinals of the 2008 NCAA tournament and winning the Big East championship last year.
The Bulls lived up to those expectations for most part, but their dream of one-upping last season’s run ended Sunday when they were eliminated in the second round of the NCAA tournament by top-seeded Akron 2-0 at Lee Jackson Field.
With the victory, Akron (21-0-0) tied the second-longest single-season win streak in NCAA history and has outscored its opponents 55-7 this year.
“We started well and had a couple of chances we would like to have back,” said USF coach George Kiefer. “Akron is clearly one of the better teams in the country, and you have to give them credit.”
The Bulls (14-4-3) had a couple chances early but were not able to get a shot on goal after junior Anthony Ampaipitakwong scored two goals in the first 33 minutes. The Zips outshot USF 14-1.
Kiefer praised his team for its effort this season, but said he felt that they could have avoided facing the No. 1 team in the second round of the tournament.
“We should have been better in one or two games during the regular season and we wouldn’t have had to go to Akron so early in the tournament,” he said. “We would have had a better draw if we had played better against Louisville, West Virginia and Rutgers. But this experience is a lesson a lot of our young guys learned, and it’s something they can take into next season.”
The Bulls were ranked in the top 10 in all five major college soccer polls this season at some point and did not lose a match at the USF Soccer Stadium for the second consecutive year. The Bulls are now 26-0-4 at home dating back to September of 2007.
Sunday’s match was the last for seniors Zak Boggs, Jorge Mora, Ogi Perucica, Francisco Aristeguieta and Alessandro Bianchi.
USF expects to return its top four scorers, however: Sebastien Thuriere, Hasani Sinclair, Javed Mohammed and Bernardo Anor. The entire defense – including goalkeeper Jeff Attinella – returns as well.
“I give a ton of credit for what our young guys did this season,” Kiefer said. “On the whole, I am very happy with what our team accomplished this year. And with all the experience our returning players gained, the high expectations will certainly be there again in 2010.”