By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
Wesley Charpie’s header in overtime sent the seventh-seeded USF men’s soccer team past UCF, 2-1, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday before a Corbett Soccer Stadium record crowd of 3,029.
“After I scored that goal, I just blacked out,” Charpie said. “I threw my shirt off, went and got piled on by my teammates. I don’t remember anything. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had.”
USF (13-3-3) moves on to the third round 6 p.m. Sunday, when it gets to host New Mexico back at Corbett Soccer Stadium.
“The fans are the greatest in the country,” Charpie said.
What made the win extra special was the fact that the Bulls’ got payback from last season’s first-round loss to the Knights in Orlando that ended their season.
“Who doesn’t want revenge on a team? It makes the whole win even sweeter,” Sebastian Thuriere said.
Thuriere played a big part in making it all happen. The senior midfielder found himself open in space in the 95th minute and decided to loft the ball into traffic in front of the box.
“I just had so much time on the ball. I saw there were three guys in the box and I just served it in there,” he said. “Wes, he had a great finish. It was a great way to win this game.”
A dramatic to Sunday’s game had quite a buildup.
The first half proved to be 45 minutes of two in-state rivals figuring each other out on the pitch.
UCF (12-6-3) held a 6-2 shot advantage in a scoreless first half with USF threatening late. Morten Benestad hit a cross near the Knights’ box in the half’s waning moments, but a diving Roberto Alterio was just inches away from getting a foot on would have been an open goal.
On the other end of the field, keeper Chris Blais gave USF just what it was looking for in tournament time. The senior graduate student made two diving saves in the opening period in his ninth NCAA Tournament game. Blais previously beat UCF last year in the second round and made a run to the Final Four with Michigan.
The score was stuck at zero until the 69th minute when USF pulled ahead with a rush to the net. Kevin Olali attacked from the right side and fired a shot that was deflected off UCF’s A.J. Nelson for an own goal.
USF pulling ahead fired up the crowd and the UCF offense.
It took 2 minutes, 9 seconds for the Knights to answer back on Ben Hunt’s goal that proved to be the final score of a furious second half.
USF got a penalty kick try with 6:54 remaining in regulation when star scorer Dom Dwyer was taken out in in the box. Leston Paul took the attempt and had keeper Sebastian Evers beaten, but his shot hit off the right post.
UCF had the final scoring chance at the end of regulation, but was unable to score in traffic before the buzzer sounded.
The Bulls certainly didn’t falter with a chance to win it all in overtime, and it marked the team’s third win of the season after regulation.
“It’s kind of just how we played all season,” Blais said. “It comes from our head coach, he’s a tough guy. We showed our toughness for the entire game.”
Blais definitely did by making five saves against one of very dangerous UCF team that beat Florida Gulf Coast to get to Tampa.
“Chris Blais was big-time in goal,” head coach George Kiefer said.