TAMPA – Another postseason game, another game-winner by USF senior forward Stiven Salinas.
Salinas scored the game-winning goal for the second straight match as the Bulls defeated the No. 8 seed Rutgers (7-11-2) in the American Athletic Conference semifinals on Friday night in Frisco, Texas.
After heading into overtime tied at one, Salinas tallied the game winner three minutes into the second overtime period to propel the Bulls to the first ever American Athletic Conference championship game.
“It was really refreshing because we’ve had so many games go into overtime where we didn’t get the goal and I felt like we deserved the game, so I was pleased that they were able to get it,” head coach George Kiefer said.
The Bulls (8-3-8) dominated throughout, outshooting the Scarlet Knights 23-8 and holding a 14-3 advantage in shots on goal.
Despite seemingly being in control throughout the match, USF had to dig itself out of an early hole after surrendering a goal in the third minute to Mael Corboz.
However, the Bulls wasted no time responding and equalized four minutes later on Edwin Moalosi’s fifth goal of the year. Moalosi took a pass from Terry Delancy down the left side and finished through a couple of Rutgers’ defenders into the top left corner of the net.
USF held a 10-3 shot advantage heading into halftime and posted seven more in the second half, but could not find the back of the net despite creating multiple quality chances. American All-Rookie Team selection Lindo Mfeka paced the Bulls' attack in regulation with five shots and led the team with six total on the night.
The senior forward Salinas nearly ended the match in the first overtime on a half-volley off a cross from Wesley Charpie that just sailed over the crossbar.
Salinas would make up for his missed opportunity in the second overtime, however, when he hit a perfect curling ball into the top right corner from 20 yards out to send the Bulls into a frenzy and to the championship match on Sunday afternoon.
“Stiven is doing a great job and he is very composed around the box. He’s not trying to kill the ball and he’s placing them well,” Kiefer stated. “ I’m really pleased with what he’s doing for us.”
USF will take on the top seeded UConn Huskies after their 2-0 victory over UCF in the second semifinal. The championship match will begin at 2 p.m. EST and will air live on ESPN3. The winner will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
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