Attinella, seniors look back on decorated careers

When senior goalkeeper Jeff Attinella takes the home field for the final time in his USF career, he and his senior brethren will look for a closing statement.

The Bulls host Rutgers tonight at 7:30 on Senior Night, with Attinella, Javed Mohammed, Shawn Chin, Andre Mittoo and Fernando Gonzalez being honored as their Bulls careers come to a close.

“Respect what we have here, keep the tradition going and continue to try and be one of the top teams in the country,” Attinella said. “It’s been a really good four years here, and I think once the season is over, I can really look back on everything. It’s nice to know that the senior class and me gave it everything we had for the program.”

As the Bulls look to bounce back from a tough loss Saturday night against Cincinnati, where they fell in double overtime 2-1, Attinella and company are preparing to close out their USF careers on a high note.

The seniors played a major role in USF’s first Big East championship in 2008 and have since led a USF squad that has been ranked in the top 25 for most of the last two seasons.

“Winning the Big East sophomore season, with us doing it at home, was just a great feeling. There’s a lot of good memories, countless memories, but definitely winning the Big East,” Attinella said.

The Bulls are ranked No. 19 in the NSCAA and Soccer America polls, thanks in large part to Attinella’s play in goal. The Safety Harbor native broke the USF record for shutouts, which now stands at 28.

“When Jeff first got here, he wasn’t playing and, even into his second year, he was sitting behind somebody, yet obviously we saw that he was going to be a spectacular goalkeeper, but we needed some time to let (his skills) develop. (Jeff) always spoke to me the right way and dealt with things the right way, and that’s why he’s a two-year captain,” coach George Kiefer said.

Attinella said his senior year has been challenging, but it’s made him better, while he continues to work toward graduating in three-and-a-half years with a degree in mass communications.

“This season has been hard to keep up with everything. We’ve been on the road a little more this season, but our coaches do a good job of making sure we’re still in line with where we need to be,” he said. “If I haven’t learned time management by now, then I haven’t learned anything. It’s just all about managing your time, knowing what to do and what not to do at certain times of the year.”

“When I think of Jeff, it’s character, looking at people, not just as a player, but in life, when things are going their way and when things aren’t going their way. When you see they’re consistent with their character, then you know you have a real gem (leader),” Kiefer said.

Attinella looks to add to his career shutout record total tonight, in hopes that a win will improve USF’s chances of bringing the Big East tournament back home for his last chance at a conference title.

“I truly think I’ll be talking about Jeff as long as I coach, as far as how to handle things,” Kiefer said. “He’s been brought up by good parents, and I’ll continue to have a relationship with him and see where he goes from here.”