TAMPA, FL –The historical late season run made by UNC Greensboro came to an end on Saturday night as the Spartans played eighth-seeded South Florida to a 1-1 draw, but fell in penalty kicks, 3-1, in the third round of the NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament at USF Soccer Stadium.
UNCG's Nirav Kadam scored early in the second half after a scoreless first 45 minutes. It was just the fifth goal USF had allowed at home all season. It was Kadam's third tally in three NCAA Tournament matches.
South Florida's Jordan Seabrook tied the game in the 82nd minute, however, to force extra time. After 20 minutes of overtime, the match moved to penalty kicks.
UNCG quickly dug itself a hole, though, in the penalty kick phase. The Spartans missed their first two PKs as the Bulls made their first two.
After Tim Masters connected to make it 2-1, Jason Devenish beat Nate Berry to the left side to make it 3-1. E.J. O'Keeffe became UNCG's last hope to keep the Cinderella run alive, but Jeff Attinella went to the right and made his third save of the penalty kick session and sent South Florida to its first-ever quarterfinal round bid. The Bulls are 10-0-2 at USF Soccer Stadium this season.
South Florida will face either top-seeded Wake Forest or No. 16 seeded Dartmouth in the quarterfinal round next weekend. Those teams play Sunday at 1 pm.
UNCG (10-11-3) became the first team with a losing mark entering the tournament to ever make it to the round of 16. It was UNCG's fourth round of 16 appearance in the last five years. It is the first time in UNCG's illustrious NCAA Tournament history that the Spartans have been eliminated in penalty kicks.
It was the sixth match in this year's NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament that had to be decided by penalty kicks.
Berry was tremendous in goal, recording five saves for the Spartans and keeping South Florida off the scoreboard for much of the night. USF (15-4-3) pressed forward late in the game and overtime and Berry was equal to the task several times. Berry was a big part of the late season surge, allowing four goals in the six postseason games and keeping the postseason hopes alive with a penalty kick advance in the Southern Conference Tournament semifinals against Georgia Southern.
"I've never been as proud of a group of guys," said UNCG coach Michael Parker, the winningest active coach in Division I with 488 wins. "The irony of it is that this group has gone from mediocre at best to a bunch of battling warriors. I think at some point they finally realized what it was like to represent this university, this program – and wear the Spartan uniform. They were warriors. They had an amazing, amazing determination not to lose. I would say from that perspective – they are as good as any group I've ever had in terms of their determination to get the right results."
The game started similar to the last game the second round match-up at Loyola (MD) as USF controlled possession for much the first 20 minutes, but the Bulls were unable to produce any legitimate scoring chances.
The Spartans capitalized on a counter attack in the 22nd minute for the first scoring chance of the evening and the first shot on goal in the contest. After the UNCG defense cleared a corner kick, Tebatso Manyama and Nirav Kadam found themselves on a two-on-one counter attack. With a few Bulls defenders in hot pursuit, Manyama was only able to get off a soft shot from the top of the six-yard box that rolled into Attinella's arms.
That opportunity seemed to wake up UNC Greensboro, though, as the game turned into more of a back and forth battle. South Florida almost found itself with a 1-0 lead just four minutes later if it wasn't for the efforts of Berry. Seabrook found himself open on the left side of the 18-yard box after receiving a through pass, but his shot destined for the far corner of the goal was kicked away by a sliding Berry.
The Bulls found another chance to take a 1-0 lead but were unable to capitalize in the 37th minute. Seabrook had a cross that Zak Boggs just missed at the top of the six yard box. Less than a minute later Manyama was able to steal the ball just 30 yards from the South Florida goal and passed it to Kadam, whose left-footed shot was smothered by Attinella.
The Spartans came out in the second half looking to have a quick strike and was able to tally the first goal of the game less than two minutes into the half. Manyama went streaking down the left side before making a beautiful cross to the back post that was just behind the defense and in front of Attinella. Kadam, streaking down the right side, ran to the top of the six yard box where he buried the cross with his right foot into the right corner of the goal for a 1-0 Spartan lead. It was Kadam's third goal in as many games during the NCAA Tournament, which gave him five goals for the year, tied for the team lead.
South Florida immediately tried to knot the game at one with a flurry of chances in the 55th minute. The Bulls received a free kick just 21 yards away from the Spartan goal, but their free kick deflected off the UNCG wall and went out for a corner kick. The ball fell into the six-yard box off of that corner kick, but Jokull Elisabetarson cleared the ball out of danger.
UNCG tried to make it 2-0 in the 64th minute off of a cross from Kadam to Cruz Oronos. Oronos headed the cross back into the 18 yard box where Tim Masters flicked to ball to the top of the 18, but his effort was unable to find Elisabetarson. The Bulls came right back less than a minute later when Nate Boggs delivered a corner that was curving into the goal that Berry pushed over the crossbar.
A little more than a minute later the Bulls had another quality opportunity to tie the game. Jorge Mora collected the ball about 14 yards from the goal and was able to volley the ball, but his shot went right into the chest of the Spartan goalkeeper Berry.
The Bulls continued to put on the pressure and eventually broke through in the 82nd minute to tie the game. South Florida delivered a cross into the box where Berry came out to collect the ball. He wasn't able to collect the ball and a Spartan clear went off a Bulls attacker. The deflection dribbled toward an open goal but went off the post. However, Seabrook was there and found himself in a great position, able to bang home the ball to tie the game.
With neither team able to break the deadlock in the first 90 minutes, the two teams headed for two 10 minutes overtimes. The only real scoring threat in the first 10 minutes came when Manyama took a corner kick that was bending into the far corner of the goal but South Florida goalie made an easy save.
The second overtime saw a couple of scoring opportunities for the Bulls but they were unable to capitalize of either chance. In the 106th minute Boggs found himself open from 20 yards out, but his shot squeaked just wide of the left post. The Bulls almost won the game with just two minutes left in overtime when Seabrook ripped a shot from just eight yards out but Berry made a great save to force penalty kicks.
Score by periods
South Florida..0..1..0..0..- 1
(South Florida advances on penalty kicks, 3-1)
Scoring: UNCG – Kadam (Manyama) 46:53; USF – Seabrook (Boggs) 82:35. Shots: UNCG 10, South Florida 23. Saves: UNCG 5 (Berry 5), South Florida 2 (Attinella 2). Corner kicks: UNCG: 3, South Florida 12. Fouls: UNCG 7, South Florida 12.
Penalty kicks: UNCG: Elisabetarson (missed), Betts (missed), Masters (made), O'Keeffe (missed); USF: Claessens (made), Mohammed (made), Devenish (made).
- UNCG -