By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA – The No. 13 Bulls knew they’d have to seize the momentum against a dangerous FGCU team and they did just that Tuesday night.
Leston Paul and Kevin Olali gave USF a 2-0 advantage in the first half and Olali added another goal after the break in a 3-0 victory before a very pleased crowd of 1,081 at Corbett Soccer Stadium. USF (6-2-1) recorded its second straight shutout and gained a ton of momentum heading back into Big East play.
“I thought the first half was some of the best we’ve played all year,” head coach George Kiefer said. “That’s a very good Florida Gulf Coast team. Even when we had two (goals), I still was a bit uneasy because they have a lot of weapons.”
The Bulls helped Kiefer breathe a little easier in the 19th minute when Paul was credited with his second goal of the season on assists by Wesley Charpie and Ricardo Webb. Olali got his first goal of the season in the 35th minute off assists from Ben Sweat and Brenton Griffiths.
“I’m very pleased with the direction we’re going,” Kiefer said.
USF gave Kiefer exactly what he wanted in the 64th minute when Charpie and Webb set up Olali for a wide-open opportunity that the senior put away.
“We came out wanting to really put it on them,” keeper Eric Osswald said. “It was good, especially this in-state rivalry. You have to be the best in the state before we can go on and be the best in the country. It’s a big win for us.”
Osswald credited USF’s defense for making it a somewhat easy night for the first-year starter. FGCU (3-4-1) managed just two shots on goal and the Eagles’ best look of the night was swatted away by a diving Osswald in the closing seconds.
“The amount of quality chances opponents have had on us all year is very small. It’s great for me and makes my job a lot easier,” Osswald said.
USF will take its air-tight defense to Villanova on Saturday for a 1 p.m. test that serves as a chance for the Bulls to start 2-0 in Big East play.
“We’ve been working on some things and our defense has gotten a lot better. Hopefully we can keep up the winning streak,” Olali said.