USF men’s soccer season ends in blowout loss to No. 1 Kentucky

Captain senior center-back Salvatore Mazzaferro was unable to guide his team to a victory over No. 1 seed Kentucky in the second round of the NCAA tournament. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

USF men’s soccer had won six of its last seven games, but was no match for top overall-seed Kentucky. The Wildcats ended the Bulls’ season at the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Sunday’s 4-0 defeat.

Though USF was coming off a 4-2 victory over NCAA first-round opponent Hofstra on Thursday, Sunday’s result quickly brought celebrations to a halt.

South Florida held the top-ranked No. 1 Wildcats to a deadlock through much of the first half. Junior Takeru Moriyama was all over the field, thwarting Kentucky’s build-up play with well-timed tackles.

Senior goalkeeper Jackson Weyman’s reflexes also proved key for the Bulls, as he preserved the score with a difficult save at his near post in the 21st minute. Weyman recorded three saves in the game, pushing his full-season total to 69 saves.

Eventually, the Bulls’ defense caved. Gifted with yards of open space inside the goalkeeper’s box, Kentucky sophomore midfielder Martin Sorereide drilled the ball past Weyman to open up a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute.

Senior center back Salvatore Mazzaferro threatened to equalize for the Bulls a little over a minute later when he received the ball close to the Kentucky goal. However, Mazzaferro blasted his shot well wide of the net, failing to capitalize for his first goal of the season.

The Bulls’ best chance of the game came at the tail-end of the first half, as a free-kick sailed through the entire Kentucky defense and landed at the feet of freshman winger Lovro Kostanjsek.

Kostanjsek attempted to poke the ball home, but saw his shot parried away by Kentucky freshman keeper Casper Mols at point-blank range.

From there, the Wildcats largely dominated the rest of the game. As the Bulls pressed for goals to close the deficit, they left themselves vulnerable to Kentucky’s counterattacks and crossing excellence.

Kentucky sophomore midfielder Casper Grening punched in a cross in the 70th minute to double USF’s deficit. The Wildcats added another two goals shortly after, effectively shutting the door on a possible USF comeback.

Even as they pushed players forward, the Bulls could only muster one shot on goal in the second half. They only produced six shots in total over the entire game. Kentucky, in comparison, had 21.

USF’s lone shot on target in the second half — a long-range attempt from junior midfielder Ajmeer Spengler — was easily saved by Mols. Spengler accounted for two of the Bulls’ three total shots on target in the game.

Sophomore forward Oscar Resano — who led the team in goals and shots on target this season — only played 36 minutes and did not manage a single shot.

Despite the blowout loss, USF’s second round finish caps its most successful season since 2012, when the Bulls also made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament. That year, they lost 1-0 to conference-rival Tulsa.