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USF men’s soccer falls to UConn in AAC semifinals

ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

It wasn’t the ending USF men’s soccer wanted — falling 2-1 to UConn in the semifinals of the AAC tournament on a balmy Friday night. But with eyes on the future, the Bulls are confident in their resume heading into the NCAA tournament.

“I don’t think we had any pressure on us as far as the NCAA tournament,” coach George Kiefer said following the match. “It’s more about getting seeded or where we would play.”

With Tulsa upsetting SMU in the semifinals, USF’s chances of a higher seed and possibly a home match are more likely.

“I still feel like we will get another game at Corbett, maybe even two, and we just have to bounce back,” Kiefer said.

USF dug itself into an early hole at home against the Huskies, giving up two goals in the second half after a scoreless first.

It was only the second time USF gave up multiple goals in a game this season.

Junior forward Nazeem Bartman, who had seven goals on the season entering the match, cut the UConn lead in half in the 79th minute off a free kick just outside the box. Bartman’s shot curved past UConn’s Scott Levene and into the back of the net.

“There’s not much to say,” Bartman said. “It was a war out there. We were battling, they were battling and we gave it our all. At the end of the day, we just couldn’t get the goal.”

Levene would get his revenge, stopping a sure goal off a second chance effort from USF. Levene, lying on the ground, raised his leg into the air and stopped the ball with his heel, saving the Huskies’ championship hopes.

USF had multiple opportunities to send home the equalizer, but the stout UConn defense held. UConn handed USF its first home loss of the season after a 9-0-2 record prior.

“They deserve it,” Bartman said. “What we can do now is focus on our next game (and) learn from what we did wrong today.”

USF doesn’t have to wait long to find out its NCAA tournament fate. The selection show airs Monday at 1 p.m. on NCAA.com.