As the USF men’s soccer team stood under the lights of Corbett Soccer Stadium in full uniform, the seniors shared hugs and a moment with the 863 fans in attendance for Senior Night.
Included among them, were friends and family coming to watch the seniors’ final regular season home game.
Their match against Detroit Mercy (3-9-4) didn’t even start yet — the seniors were just embracing one of their final moments in a Bulls uniform.
“A lot of emotions were going into this,” senior goalkeeper Brentton Muhammad said. “I feel like I’m a part of the Bulls family and it’s always emotional when you play your last game.”
The pre-game ceremony marked the formal sendoff of six seniors (Muhammad, Ben Sweat, Ricardo Webb, Samuel Hosseini, Luis Avila and Stiven Salinas) with framed jerseys, career stats read by the announcer and flowers given by the players’ escorts.
While the seniors were able to honor the crowd and team with one more game, they did it without one of their own. Senior defender Ricardo Webb was left to watch from the sidelines with a knee injury, as players dedicated their performance to him.
“Webb is our captain,” Muhammad said. “Getting a performance in for Ricardo and showing that we care for our brothers is always a good thing to take away.”
Once the music was turned down, the Bulls were all business.
In the 17th minute, USF senior forward Salinas touched a pass into the box that was deflected by Titan defenders.
He capitalized on the space he had to line up his shot, and bent it from 18 yards out into the top corner of the net past Titans goalie Nathan Steinwascher’s leaping reach.
“It’s a good feeling, but I give (the goal) to my teammates,” Salinas said. “It wasn’t just me scoring the goal, it was teamwork. All the effort was by the group that we all put in everyday.”
The Bulls (6-3-7, 2-2-3) continued to press a persistent attack that included 20 shots, 10 corner kicks and one penalty kick during the game.
Muhammad led the Bulls’ defense against a Titan team that found almost half of its 10 shots being on goal. His four saves earned him his fifth shutout of the season.
“It’s always good to get a shutout,” Muhammad said. “It was good to give a good performance for the fans that turned out, and the families that came as well.”
While the crowd was cheering the 1-0 victory over the final sound of the referee’s air horn, the seniors said they knew that this win was the way they would reflect back on their time playing at USF.
Among their high fives, team picture with mascot Rocky the Bull and somberly sweet “Hey Jude” being played through the stadium’s sound system, they left with the goal they set out for — a win against Detroit.
“A lot goes on with college males that are 17 and 18, turning 22 and 23,” coach George Kiefer said. “You see a lot of growth in them … I think when they move on from , they will be good citizens, whether that be community leaders, husbands or fathers.”