TAMPA - The University of South Florida men's soccer team kicked off the postseason tonight with a 2-1 loss at West Virginia in the first round of the BIG EAST Tournament in Morgantown.
"Despite the loss, I thought that our guys came out and competed very well tonight," said USF head coach George Kiefer. "To come on the road and play against a team of West Virginia's caliber, and play them as tough as we did says a lot about our team. "The first goal of the game for them, I thought, was very unlucky since they scored off a deflection. But I thought that our guys battled back into the game and played well against one of the better teams in the country."
The Mountaineers got out of the gate quickly as Uwem Etuk beat USF goalkeeper Jeff Attinella in the 17th minute to give West Virginia a 1-0 lead.
Bernardo Anor would even the game up when he placed a header past Mountaineer net-minder Zach Johnson, off an assist from a Javed Mohammed cross in the 33rd minute of play. The goal would be Anor's sixth of the season.
After the USF goal, West Virginia would attempt a flurry of shots, with two coming from Sebele and one by Franck Tayou in a 10 second stretch; however the Bulls' notoriously defense would stifle the opportunities.
USF's Ben Sweat would get the last good chance of the first half only to put the shot just over the cross bar with less than a minute left in the first stanza.
West Virginia would come out in the second half and looked to once again strike quickly. Attinella would make a big save on an Alex Silva header just 16 seconds into the half before teammate Nick Claudio put a shot wide almost three minutes later.
After an Anor shot was saved by Johnson, Sebele would get a trio of corner kicks in a one minute stretch. His third of the three corners found Eric Schoenle as WVU took a 2-1 lead in the 50th minute of play.
The Bulls would look to get the momentum on the offensive end, when Anor looked to tie the game up again only to have his attempt blocked in the 75th minute.
Aubrey Perry would then get the rebound and put his shot just high over the cross bar in the 76th minute of play that would have deadlocked the game once again
After USF came up empty on back-to-back Mohammed corner kicks within 30 seconds in the 83rd minute of play, Mohammed would try to take matters into his own hands putting a laser on net only to have Johnson come up with the save in the 85th minute.
That attempt would be the Bulls' last opportunity of the game as the Mountaineers would run the remainder of the clock out.
The Bulls, who have a No. 35 RPI in the latest rankings by the NCAA and play in what is one of the best collegiate soccer league in the country, drop to 9-5-4 on the year after the tournament loss and will now await an NCAA Tournament bid.
Out of the Bulls' five losses this season, four of them have come at the hands of teams with RPI's of 28 or lower, including a heartbreaking 2-1 double overtime loss to No. 1 ranked Louisville on Oct. 23.