No. 4 Bulls set to begin postseason journey

After arriving at its first goal, an outright Big East Red Division title with an undefeated conference season, USF is ready to take the next step – the Big East Conference tournament.

Six days after clinching the outright division title, junior forward Dom Dwyer and his teammates take the field Sunday at 1 p.m. at Corbett Soccer Stadium against an undetermined opponent. The Bulls will play the winner of the first-round match between Villanova and Notre Dame, which will be played tonight in South Bend, Ind.

The Bulls have not played Notre Dame this season, but they did face Villanova on Oct. 22, showing their moxie by coming back from a 1-0 deficit with a pair of second-half goals on the way to a 2-1 victory.

“I think the second half against Villanova was the best soccer, as far as possession is concerned, that we have played all season,” coach George Kiefer said. “If we can play even 80 minutes like those 45, we’ll be in a good position to win.”

The Bulls’ play in the regular season earned them both a bye directly into the quarterfinals of the tournament and the right to host a quarterfinal match. If the Bulls can win their quarterfinal game, they will be off to New Jersey to play in the semifinals in the 25,000-seat home of Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls, Red Bull Arena.

Before they can look at a trip to New Jersey, however, the Bulls have to remain focused on the work they must do to get there.

USF will have the advantage of playing with a three-time Big East Offensive Player of the Week award-winner in Dwyer. He earned the award again this week after recording five points in the Bulls’ 3-0 win against Cincinnati on Oct. 26, with two goals and an assist.

The goals gave Dwyer 16 on the season, which leads the Big East, and is fifth in the NCAA, only three behind the national leader, Memphis’ Mark Sherrod.

Despite being the team’s offensive leader, Dwyer said he refuses to be absorbed by the attention he is given.

“It’s obviously nice getting personal recognition, but I’m just so happy that we’re doing well as a team,” he said.

Dwyer, however, is not the only Bull getting national attention. After junior defender Brenton Griffiths was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Week last week, which ensured the Bulls would have a Big East Player of the Week in four consecutive weeks, sophomore defender Ben Sweat was named to the Big East Honor Roll after picking up an assist against Cincinnati, and helping the Bulls’ reliable backline on their way to consecutive shutouts.

“(Sweat is) always a great player, and he stepped it up this week,” Dwyer said. “He’s a workhorse.”

The Bulls will need to have all hands on deck Sunday, and for the rest of the season, as they will face progressively tougher games the further they advance into the postseason tournaments.

“We just need to be focused,” Kiefer said. “We are not where we want to be just yet, in winning our division. We have many more goals to fulfill before this season is over for us.”