The USF men’s soccer team beat Stetson 3-1 on a muggy, still evening in Tampa on Tuesday.
FINAL: BULLS WIN!— USF Men's Soccer (@USFMSOC) September 26, 2018
With two freshmen scoring debut goals, USF defeats Stetson 3-1! pic.twitter.com/KFh2miBCNK
The Bulls struck early in the 11th minute. A long ball from sophomore midfielder Emilio Ycaza found a streaking sophomore winger Avionne (Ayo) Flanagan down the left sideline. It was his second such run of the night, and after blasting the first ball into the parking lot, he rolled the goal into the net for the opening goal of the night.
The Bulls also found two goals in the second half. The game winner was headed home in the 53rd minute by freshman midfielder Henrique Gallina off a corner from junior midfielder Alex Zis.
Midfielder Felipe Baptista added a third in the 82nd minute, shooting with his off foot through traffic after junior forward Stephen Rudderham advanced the ball into the final third and laid it off for the freshman. For both freshmen, it was their first career goals.
USF concerned fans after the first goal by sitting back more than expected, and absorbing a lot of pressure. On top of that, a handful of Stetson counters were very threatening. Eventually, Stetson found the net, tying the game in the 43rd minute off a fast counter that saw junior keeper Harrison Devenish-Mears get chipped while diving for the ball.
“Where we are in the season, against a team that’s in state and we’re always one of their bigger games, it’s good. Especially because we have a bunch of young guys that have never been through it before,” said Coach Bob Butehorn after the game. “I’m happy for ‘em, but they made it interesting at times. I think that’s what they’re supposed to do, being young: make it interesting for me.”
There was definitely some unease in the crowd going into the second half, as Stetson outshot USF 11-5 in the first half, forcing Devenish-Mears to make 3 first half saves. The junior keeper had a great day, denying several intentional crosses and keeping a handful of errant Stetson crosses from ending up in the back of the net.
The game was punctuated by several incidents on the pitch. Three that will stick out in the minds of USF fans were two handballs in the box by Stetson and sophomore Freddy Gil getting shoved in the neck/face by a Stetson player. The only USF player to be booked was freshman Richard Laval, who intentionally fouled a Stetson player to prevent a counter.
The Bulls were returning home from a trip to UConn that saw USF settle for a 2-2 draw after going up 2-1 late in the game to this spectacular Rudderham goal.
“I think we played a really good game [up] in Connecticut, and a poor game at FGCU. I think we’re kind of getting our lessons and what’s happening is that they’re maturing in front of you,” said Coach Butehorn when asked about how the Bulls were following up getting a point against their fierce rival.
Not available in Tuesday’s game due to various injuries were Adrian Billhardt (foot), Josue Monge (undisclosed), and Marcus Murphy (concussion). All three get regular minutes and have started multiple games.
The Bulls host former three-peat conference champion Tulsa this Saturday in what should be a hotly contested game.