USF men’s soccer stays perfect at home with win over UCF

USF junior forward Melvin Beckett celebrates his goal in the 11th minute of Wednesday’s 3-1 victory. ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

They’re still perfect.

The No. 13 men’s soccer team added to its unblemished home record Wednesday night, downing rival Central Florida 3-1 to improve to 8-0 at Corbett Stadium.

“The team is really starting to attack on all cylinders, which is a good feeling,” coach George Kiefer said.

Coming off a scoreless draw at Memphis on Friday, the Bulls (10-3-1, 5-0-1) came out of the gates as the aggressor, netting the first goal of the match on a pass by Marcus Epps, which was headed in by junior forward Melvin Becket in the 11th minute. 

UCF (5-8-1, 1-4-1) returned the favor, however, as forward Hadji Barry inched a shot past goalkeeper Spasoje Stefanovic to even things up in the 40th.

But the Bulls refused to back down, quickly retaking control of the game in the second half with a rush of offensive pressure. It paid off in the 47th minute as junior forward Nazeem Bartman found the back of the net for his team-leading sixth goal of the season.

Forward Brandon Riley added an insurance tally for USF in the 75th, burying a feed from Terry Delancy past UCF keeper Brendan Rennie.

The Bulls outshot the Knights 17-8, including 11-5 in the second half.

The victory keeps USF in the running to earn the top seed for the AAC championship tournament, which starts Nov. 9. Winning the regular season conference title guarantees the Bulls will open the tournament at home, where they have not lost since November against Connecticut.

To get there, the Bulls will need to get past 12th-ranked SMU on Saturday night. The conference-leading Mustangs (11-2-2, 6-0) defeated Tulsa 3-2 Wednesday.

“Compared to August when we started, there has been a big improvement,” Bartman said. “Everyone’s mentality, their work rate — everything has just improved, and you can see it showing on the field.”