Poor weather wasn’t enough to slow down the streaking USF men’s soccer team Saturday night, as the Bulls brought down No. 8 St. John’s 3-2 at the USF Soccer Stadium in a game that saw heavy rain from start to finish.
“With the pouring rain, the heavy winds, (and) the battle, it wasn’t as much about the X’s and O’s tonight,” coach George Kiefer said. “It was about heart, passion and work. I thought our guys did really well with that tonight.”
There was extra pressure on Kiefer and the Bulls (7-2-2, 2-0-1) to pull out a victory, as Cornelia and Richard Corbett watched the game from the stadium’s press box. The Corbetts are responsible for the largest donation towards the Bulls’ brand new soccer facilities – which will soon be named after them – and were on hand to cheer for the team in their biggest home game of the season.
“Cornelia came down to the field and gave me a big hug,” Kiefer said. “That meant a lot, because she has done a lot for our program. On her night, we definitely wanted to win this match.”
In the beginning, it looked like both the Bulls and the Corbetts would be disappointed by the night’s results, as St. John’s (7-3-2, 1-2-0) managed to deliver the first blow in the match. Senior midfielder Pablo Battuto Punyed got the Red Storm on the board when he rocketed a shot from 35 yards away, and managed to find the back of the net past a diving Chris Blais in the 11th minute.
“We kind of hung our heads a little after the first goal, but we knew we had to keep fighting, and it eventually paid off for us,” junior forward Dom Dwyer said.
Junior defensive midfielder Ashani Fairclough sent a long pass to sophomore Leston Paul, who finished from 18 yards in the 23rd minute for his third goal in as many games and fourth goal of the season.
“He got us back into it,” Dwyer said. “We were on our heels a little bit, and Leston just banged it like he does. He does it in training all the time and he’s a great player.”
Paul seemed to ignite the Bulls’ offensive attack, as just 10 minutes later Dwyer took a long pass from freshman Lucas Baldin and split a pair of St. John’s defenders. Dwyer managed to slip his ninth goal of the season past Red Storm keeper Rafael Diaz.
Though the Bulls held the lead by intermission, the Red Storm refused to give up. Their offensive aggressiveness was rewarded just four minutes into the second half, when Punyed hurt the Bulls’ defense once again, this time with an assist to senior Walter Hines for the equalizer.
Both teams were under pressure as the weather worsened, yet the Bulls managed to come through.
In the 71st minute, after junior Kevin Olali was unable to finish on a powerful shot, freshman Wesley Charpie found an open Dwyer. Dwyer took advantage of the out-of-position Diaz, and rammed home a strong shot between multiple defenders for the game-winning goal. The goal was Dwyer’s 10th of the season.
“Dom just beat him with power,” Kiefer said. “He blasted it, and I don’t think Diaz had a chance at that one.”
The win is another positive mark on the No. 14 Bulls’ season resume, as the victory makes them 5-1 against ranked teams this season. It also extends USF’s Big East Red Division lead over the Red Storm to four points.
The Bulls will play at home once again this Wednesday night at 7:30 against the DePaul Blue Demons.