After a regular season with a record-setting eight draws, the USF men’s soccer team has gathered momentum and won three of its last four matches heading into the second round of its conference tournament in Frisco, Texas.
After the Bulls (7-3-8, 2-2-4) earned a 1-0 victory against Temple in Pennsylvania, USF punched its ticket to its first semifinal appearance since the 2008-09 season.
“No one is on their home field, so it’s going to be a different environment and different field,” senior defender Ben Sweat said. “It’s going to be good for us, especially to be on a big field playing the style of football we play.”
While USF and Rutgers are tied for goals and assists in the conference, the Bulls are focusing on their growth and lessons learned since their first meeting that resulted in a 0-0 tie Oct. 19.
“The reason why it was a 0-0 game is because we couldn’t finish our opportunities,” senior forward Stiven Salinas said. “There were a lot of chances, but we couldn’t finish it. I think right now it’s a matter of finishing our opportunities and keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
With the team focused on finishing, they have been able to close out games in regulation against SMU, Detroit Mercy and Temple.
The only match USF had a tie score in since Oct. 19 was against No. 7 Louisville on Nov. 3. Rutgers, the lowest seeded team in the tournament, had a different outcome against the Cardinals in the quarterfinals, with a 1-0 upset victory over the top seeded team.
“We are definitely not going to overlook Rutgers,” Sweat said. “We’ve played them this year and they are coming off big wins, so both teams are coming off of momentum. We know we have a big week of preparation.”
Regardless of the tournament arrangement or statistics, the Bulls are focused on practicing their style of soccer and preparing one game at a time.
“We aren’t really thinking about any statistics or past events,” junior midfielder Wesley Charpie said. “We are just thinking about the game on Friday, and if we lose, we are out.”
The match is set to start at 6 p.m.