Emotions were running high as South Florida beat UCF 2-1 on rival territory for the regular-season finale Wednesday.
The Bulls (6-5-4, 5-1-3 AAC) are ranked No. 3 in the conference, while the Knights (6-7, 3-6 AAC) sit at No. 7.
UCF’s defense started the first half leisurely, despite missing two starters. Senior forward Gino Vivi and fifth-year defender Andres Hernandez Betancur were both out of the game due to red card suspension.
In the first half, the Knights led in shots, but also fouls, with five each. USF had two shots and four fouls.
Neither team made a goal until the middle of the second half when USF sophomore midfielder Julio Plata shot the first of his career at the 59th minute. Coming off a corner kick, Plata was able to place the ball in the open net after it ricocheted off a defender’s foot.
“I just saw the ball there and was like, ‘I’m going to take this one.’ And I just shot it and it went in,” he said. “Thank God. I’m happy about that.”
The Bulls managed to stay on their toes as the Knights attempted to get some shots on redshirt senior keeper Jackson Weyman. He had six saves on goal by the end of the match.
USF’s second goal came 10 minutes after the first. Senior midfielder Gabrielle Priviteira capitalized on the Knight’s open defense and took a shot that slipped through Central Florida’s keeper Juanvi Muoz’s fingertips.
As time was running out for the Knights to make a change, the team was slowly losing its structure. UCF had two fouls and a yellow card drawn on them in the 10 minutes following the Bulls’ second goal.
With only six minutes left on the clock, freshman right back Mathis Haugen gave the Knights their only goal of the game after a foul in the 18-yard box caused a penalty for the opposing team.
“Everyone put in the work,” Plata said. “It was a hard fought game. I’m just happy with what the boys did tonight, everyone gave their 110%. It was a great team effort.”
Coach Bob Butehorn said he’s proud of his reliable team and the effort they put in.
“The guys had a rough start to the game, it was a big challenge. They put them under pressure and got a goal then got another one,” Butehorn said. “Right now I can rely on these guys and I look down the bench and I don’t worry. They all jump in and I know that they’re going to work hard.”
USF will head into the first round of the AAC Tournament on Sunday. Opponents and times are still TBA.