It's early, but the USF men's soccer team might be ready to take the program up to yet another level this season. The Bulls won a pair of games at the Hurricane Classic, knocking off 20th-ranked SMU on Friday and then beating the host school, Tulsa, on Sunday night to run their record to 3-0. The Golden Hurricane had beaten 3rd-ranked New Mexico on Friday, which should bump the previously #4 Bulls even higher in the NCAA rankings when they are published on Tuesday.
Friday's contest against the Mustangs was scoreless until deep into the match. In the 67th minute, the Bulls caught a break when SMU's Andrew Morales was sent off for his second yellow card. Playing up a man, USF finally tallied in the 75th minute when Ben Sweat collected a long pass from Brenton Griffiths and converted from close range. The Bulls made the goal stand up with a strong defensive effort -- keeper Eric Osswald was given his first career sheet, as no SMU shots found the target.
USF coach George Kiefer gave lots of credit to his defensive corps:
"SMU is one of the top teams in the country and to be that good defensively this early, not even give them a shot on goal, I think is a real credit to the experience we have on our back line."
On Sunday, the Bulls faced Tulsa, and again came out with a result after their opponent went a man down because of yellow cards. With the match level at 1, the Golden Hurricane's Cristian Mata was sent off in the 74th minute after being shown yellow for the second time. (It was one of eight combined yellow cards between the sides.) A few minutes later, Lucas Baldin was taken down in the box and awarded a penalty. He converted for a 2-1 lead, and the Bulls hung on for the win.
The women's team traveled to Orlando for the UCF invitational, but returned without getting a result. On Friday, they fell to Georgia 2-1 despite a goal and four shots on net by Sharla Passariello, who already has four goals this season. Her tally brought the Bulls level at 1 right before halftime, but the Bulldogs controlled the run of play in the second half, and Bella Hartley's goal two minutes into the half ended up being the game-winner. Georgia kept the pressure on even after gaining the lead, and outcornered USF 7-0 in the second half.
Sunday brought a match against Dartmouth, but again USF dropped a 2-1 decision. The Big Green* scored in the ninth minute on a goal by Kim Rose, but USF's Cara Patterson tallied her first of the season in the 18th minute to equalize. The match remained level until the 73rd minute, when Kendall Kraus scored off a cross in front of the Bulls net. The pair of defeats dropped the Bulls' record on the season to 2-3-0.
* - that's their nickname, I promise. No word on if Keggy the Keg made the trip to Orlando this past weekend.
The men's team returns to Corbett Soccer Stadium this weekend to host the USF Invitational, with matches against South Carolina** on Thursday and Iona on Saturday. The women go back out on the road to play in the College of Charleston Cup. A match with the host school on Friday will be followed by a meeting with Kennesaw State on Sunday, as they try and return to the win column.
** - if you know which conference South Carolina plays soccer in without looking it up, I'm going to be impressed.