The men’s soccer team fell to 0-3 on the season with a 1-0 loss to Virginia Tech in Tampa on Friday night.
After a rough road trip that saw losses to Michigan State and Michigan to start the season, the Bulls looked to bounce back against Virginia Tech in their home opener. Unfortunately, USF wasn’t as sharp as their new black uniforms and couldn’t find a goal against a strong Hokie defense.
There was definitely a talent gap between the two teams, aided by the fact the Hokies were just about as fast as USF but generally much taller. It was an advantage that the Hokies made the most of for a majority of the night.
The Virginia Tech breakthrough came in the 24th minute off a corner (set pieces seem to be an enemy of the Bulls this year, giving up a late goal off a corner to Michigan State in the season opener). The ball fell to the ground and bounced around a fair amount before finding its way to the back of the net. Hokie striker Kristo Strickler was given credit for the goal.
The Bulls pressed for most of the game, managing 22 shots to Tech’s 14. However, they only had 5 shots on frame the whole night. Sophomore forward Adrian Billhardt had a great chance to tie the game in the few minutes following the Virginia Tech goal, but skied the shot over the bar.
The Bulls had a few good looks on net, but none truly tested Hokie keeper Mathijs Swaneveld. The build up play for USF was good, but there were many times that they didn’t see the final pass to goal, or were able to get a good shot off. Often USF would have to play the ball down the wings to get into the attacking third and simply cross into the box, where Tech held the aerial advantage. The team was much more aggressive in the second half, and the last 20 minutes seemed promising for the game-tying goal, but the Bulls were unable to find the finishing touch.
“As a coach, you always look at the positives,” said coach Bob Butehorn after the game. “We made some adjustments at halftime, I think we came out and deserved at least a tie. I think you take it as a positive, teaching moments, and just tell the group that, look, these are the steps you’re taking and you’re moving in the right direction. Things will come. Hard work is gonna make it happen. We’re getting chances, we’re getting good looks. This was a better game, by far their best game.”
A notable absence from the game was junior striker Stephen Rudderham. After scoring a hat trick in the Rowdies Cup and playing against both Big Ten Michigan teams, the junior appeared in street clothes for the home opener. When asked why he was absent from the game, coach Butehorn said he was unable to play due to eligibility issues stemming from a financial error.
“Unfortunately he can’t (play on the team), something was with his finances and school payments, so gotta get that sorted out. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is. Just gotta focus on the next one.”
The next one is another tough test against Creighton at home on Monday, before traveling back to Big Ten country, at Ohio State next Friday.