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Soccer team rebounds after rough beginning

By ROD GIPSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 29, 2000


TAMPA -- If any further proof was needed that records sometimes lie, look at the USF men's soccer team. Two weeks into the 2000 season, it was 1-5 and had been outscored 9-17.

A suspect Bulls lineup?

Hardly.

What the record doesn't show is the Bulls had faced three top 25 teams, played four of five on the road and had an early schedule that rivaled the toughest in the country. It also didn't show the team's resiliency.

"This team has a lot of character," coach John Hackworth said. "We had been playing good soccer; just not enough to finish games."

After routing Stetson 4-1 on Sept. 20, the Bulls put together a dramatic second-half comeback on the road Saturday to erase a two-goal deficit and upset Conference USA foe Cincinnati 4-3 in overtime.

"It was one of the best finishes I've been a part of," said Hackworth, whose team now is 3-5. "You don't really think you still have a chance when you're down by two with time running out."

But in improbable fashion, the Bulls got goals from Aaron Ortega and Paul Scrivens during the last 13 minutes to send it to overtime. Thirty-two seconds of overtime was all USF needed. Sage Martina notched the game-winning goal off Jeff Thwaites' third assist of the match for the 4-3 victory.

"It was an amazing, come-from-behind victory on the road," Hackworth said. "We showed a lot of character. We never gave up, kept on fighting. We came back, executed our defense, and we were successful."

The hot Bulls, with wins in three of their past four games, are looking at a tie for fourth place in Conference USA with a 1-1 mark in league play. The fact that the Bulls are tied with Memphis makes tonight's matchup with the Tigers (5-3, 1-1) even larger.

Memphis comes in off a 7-1 drubbing of UCF in which leading scorers Lars Thorstensen and Sean Fraser scored two goals. Fraser now has eight goals while Thorstensen has six. Fraser leads C-USA with 19 points while Thorstensen has five goals and an assist in his past five matches.

"Memphis is a good team, much improved since last year," said Hackworth of the Tigers, who lost 4-2 to USF in the C-USA title match last season. "They played us close last season, and they've had some success against us. It should be a good match for us."

The Bulls enter the match with some weapons of their own. Martina had a goal and an assist against the Bearcats, and Scrivens scored twice. Junior forward Matt Cavendaugh posted two goals and had an assist against Stetson. They'll have to make up for the absence of Thwaites, Ortega and Andy Chase, who will miss today's 7 p.m. game due to unspecific team violations.

But Hackworth said he is confident his team has the numbers to continue its solid play. He might be right with a roster that numbers 25 players and had five reserves on the field when it won at Cincinnati.

"We are very deep," he said. "We probably have about 16 or 17 players that could start for us. So we feel pretty confident about this team. Plus with the level of talent we've played, we're not scared of any teams."

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