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Men’s soccer advances to second round of NCAA Tournament

Three of the four goals scored in this match were shot from outside the 18-yard box. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

Over 1,000 people were in attendance at Corbett Stadium on Thursday as fans watched South Florida host, and win 4-2, the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Hofstra University.

The packed crowd cheered on the team throughout their victory, giving them the energy they needed throughout the adversities, junior midfielder Ajmeer Spengler said.

“The crowd was amazing tonight, probably the best crowd I’ve played in my career,” Spengler said. “It really brought a lot of energy. Especially in those scrappy moments where you may not have that last bit of energy to make that attack, the crowd really gives you that extra boost.”

This is the team’s 22nd invite to play in the NCAA Tournament in program history. USF (9-6-4, 5-1-3 AAC) has gone on to the elite eight three times, with the last being in 2008 and 2011.

Hofstra (14-4-3, 5-2-2 CAA) came in with a goal at the fifth minute by sophomore midfielder Eliot Goldthorp, putting South Florida under pressure early in the game.

The goal didn’t deviate the Bulls from their focus, as Spengler scored the equalizer at the 28th minute.

In the final minute of the first half, sophomore forward Oscar Resano put the team at a 2-1 lead after placing a header from a corner kick.

“It’s definitely better to go into the halftime break up on the score,” Resano said. “I honestly think if we wouldn’t have had that goal in the first half, we would’ve had it in the second because we were just going at them and being very aggressive. That’s what we like and it showed in the score.”

After the break, South Florida kept its momentum going as sophomore midfielder Marcus Victorio scored at the 53rd minute. The goal was taken off his left foot at the top of the 18-yard box, which curved the ball and placed it into the top of the net.

USF’s final goal of the night came from sophomore midfielder Shion Soga with an assist from senior midfielder Gabrielle Privitera in the 60th minute. Hofstra’s only other goal was also scored by Goldthorp with 13 minutes left in the game.

By the final whistle, the team finished with 16 shots, eight in each half and two corner kicks. Hofstra only had nine shots, six on frame and four corner kicks.

The Bulls maintained 60% ball possession during both halves of the game, and three out of USF’s four goals scored were from outside the 18-yard box.

Both teams finished with 10 fouls each. Two yellow cards were handed to the Bulls and four for the Pride. For a physical game like this, coach Bob Butehorn said he’s proud the team was able to match that energy.

“I’m so pleased that the guys took the air out of the game and controlled it,” Butehorn said. “I challenge them to make it a soccer game, not make it a dump and run. They did a great job in that regard.”

In preparation for the next round, Butehorn’s focus is on keeping the team fresh as they go deeper into post-regular-season play.

“It is really difficult with this type of season model where you have a couple days off and then you’re playing again,” Butehorn said. “My whole goal now is to keep them as fresh as they possibly can and get them ready for Sunday.”

South Florida will face No. 1 overall seed Kentucky on Sunday. UK (14-0-5, 5-0-3) got a top bid into the NCAA tournament after defeating James Madison University 2-0 in the South Eastern Conference championship match Nov. 13.

UK’s clean record made history in the NCAA Division I men’s soccer program as being the first undefeated team in the country.

Captain senior defender Luis Grassow and co-captain freshman goalkeeper Casper Mols have led their team as key starters for the Wildcats. Both players have received a Sun Belt Conference postseason award and rank the highest in playing time on the team.

Grassow was named Sun Belt Conference Defensive player of the year and has helped his team with three goals, one assist and seven shots in 1,557 minutes of playing time.

The freshman goalkeeper has capped 22 saves, 10 shutouts and 1,237 minutes of playing time in his first year with the Wildcats, and was named Sun Belt Conference goalkeeper of the year.

Kentucky’s solid defense calls for the Bulls’ long shots to be more keen than ever going into the second round of the tournament.

USF continues to the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday against No. 1 Kentucky at 6 p.m. Broadcasting for this game is still TBA.