Bulls' Run Ends in Second Round of NCAA Tourney
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - The USF men's soccer season ended in cruel fashion Sunday night, but the Bulls stuck together just like they did from the start.
Omar Mata scored on a free kick with 1:15 remaining in overtime to send Tulsa past USF and onto the third round of the NCAA tournament. The Bulls ended their impressive run with a sixth straight trip to tournament and gave fans two postseason games at Corbett Stadium. A total of 2,663 were on hand to watch Sunday's action.
"I'm really proud of the boys because just through it all we stuck together," senior Sebastien Thuriere said. "I thought towards the end of the year things started turning our way a little bit. We came out with a good win on Thursday and we came out with the momentum to win tonight, but that's how the game goes."
Thuriere nearly won it for USF in the second half when he found himself in a one-on-one situation with Tulsa's Mark Pais, who deflected the shot at close range off his shoulder for the save. The Bulls also had two very good chances in the first half when Wesley Charpie hit the right post and Kyle Nicholls' chip shot went right at Pais for one of his three saves.
"I felt like we were good enough to win tonight, but we didn't get that done. It's a frustrating game I've chosen to coach," USF head coach George Kiefer said.
USF also got a strong performance out of its defense and keeper Dallas Jaye, who made two saves and took a scoreless game into overtime for the second time this week. The sophomore didn't give anything up until the Bulls took care of Florida Gulf Coast in penalty kicks on Thursday night to advance.
"(Tulsa) is a very lethal team. I think Dallas made a great save in the first half to carry it wide. Other than that I felt we did a very good job keeping them at bay," Kiefer said.
Thuriere and the rest of the senior class will certainly be missed at a program that's had a ton of success with them on the roster. The class has been to four straight NCAA tournaments, made it to two Elite Eights and won a Big East Red Division title during last year's memorable ride.
"They've set a high standard where the next group of seniors that can do better than that will have a Final Four under their belt," Kiefer said. "That's really the missing piece of what we're trying to do."
This year's group of Bulls had to deal with a lot of adversity on the way to the NCAA tournament. Injuries piled up while USF ended up No. 25 in the RPI and the Bulls still found a way to reach eight wins.
"This year was a year where we were the closest as a team. Through the year I really enjoyed being a close family," Thuriere said.