With the college football bowl season right around the corner and college hoops in full swing, the NCAA Men's Soccer Championships may not be at the forefront of too many fans' minds. But in terms of drama and excitement, the South Florida Bulls' run to the Elite 8 has been nothing short of captivating.
In front of a record crowd of nearly 4,000, the Bulls narrowly edged the New Mexico Lobos on Saturday, 6-5, to advance to the school's second Elite 8 appearance in four seasons. The star of the moment is senior goal keeper Chris Blais, who blocked UNM's seventh penalty kick to give USF the thrilling win in Tampa. Though technically recorded as a tie, the loss was New Mexico's only defeat of the season. USF, the tournament's No. 7 seed, advances to the face second-seeded Creighton this coming Saturday afternoon. Here's a tidy rundown of how the penalty kicks showdown unfolded:
USF and New Mexico both hit their first two penalty kicks, with Lucas Baldin and Trey Perry converting for the Bulls. Dom Dwyer, the Big East's Offensive Player of the Year, saw his shot blocked by New Mexico's Victor Rodriguez, but Blais returned the favor, blocking New Mexico's Blake Smith on the next shot.
For the next three frames, USF and New Mexico both converted -- Ashani Fairclough, Leston Paul and Kevin Olali all making good on their kicks -- and then coach George Kiefer turned to reserve Santi Alexis, who hadn't played during the course of the game. Alexis made his kick, and then Blais stopped the shot from the Lobos' Carson Baldinger.
Also of note was the fight that took place after the game had ended. Victor Rodriguez and James Rogers of the Lobos were both issued red cards and ejected for fighting in Rodriguez's case and for 'ref assault and violent conduct' in the case of Rogers. Ugly stuff and no way to end an otherwise outstanding game.
For more on the Bulls' win and a look-ahead to Saturday's Elite 8 match against Creighton, visit Voodoo Five's soccer section.