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Men's soccer team peaking at right time

By ANTONYA ENGLISH

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 3, 2000


TAMPA -- Three weeks into the season, the South Florida men's soccer team had won just one of its first six games and seemed destined for a long, tough year.

John Hackworth never saw it that way. In his mind, the team needed some fine-tuning and a little consistency and it would be just fine.

Back then, it seemed a little like wishful thinking. Today, it's just fact.

South Florida is playing its best soccer of the season -- having won nine of its past 12 games. Today, the Bulls play, arguably, their biggest game of the year with all their season's goals on the line.

South Florida (10-8) hosts Saint Louis (10-3-2) at 7 p.m. in its final regular-season game.

The game is crucial for both teams. A win for Saint Louis means it hosts the Conference USA tournament Nov. 9-12. A victory for South Florida extends its season.

"If we win, we're guaranteed a spot in the conference tournament," Hackworth said. "We will have finished our season on a four-game winning streak. That would allow us to reach all of the goals we set for ourselves: to win the C-USA tournament and to play for a national championship. You have to be in that tournament to make the NCAAs. If we do that, nobody is going to remember that we were 1-5."

The phenomenal turnaround has been a team effort, but a big part of the team has been senior forward/midfielder Greg Krauss, who earned his second C-USA offensive player of the week honor for the week ending Oct. 29.

Krauss scored five goals as the Bulls went 3-0. He leads the Bulls in scoring with 30 points on 15 goals.

"Greg has done a fantastic job both in terms of his play and leadership ability," Hackworth said. "He's doing the things we need a goal scorer and a leader to do on and off the field. I'm not surprised. I expected this come from Greg and he's performed."

REDUCED PRICE FOOTBALL: If you have Internet capability and a printer, you could get a discounted ticket for Saturday night's football game against undefeated Western Kentucky.

Visit http://www.gousfbulls.com and print a coupon, good for $3 off a ticket. The offer is not valid on previously purchased tickets and seating will be best available at time of purchase. Tickets can be redeemed at the Sun Dome ticket office from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays or at the Raymond James ticket office.

STAYING STRAIGHT: After its history-making win over Houston two weeks ago to take over first place in the C-USA National Division, it might have been easy for the volleyball team to get lulled into a false sense of security.

But with five games remaining before the C-USA tournament, Nancy Mueller's team is showing no signs of losing focus.

The Bulls (20-4, 11-1) take a 13-game winning streak into Hattiesburg tonight for a conference match at Southern Mississippi.

"We still have our goals in sight and beating Houston was one thing to get us closer to that," Mueller said. "We know we have to stay focused and not look to the future too much. Our goal from the beginning was to win the conference."

The Bulls have been fueled by the fact they were picked in the preseason to finish sixth in the conference. Turns out, that may have been a good thing.

"It gave us a little incentive," Mueller said. "We were preseason No. 6 and I like that. I liked being the underdog. We have come out and proven so far that we like that role and we can take that role. It's a little different position now that we're on top. Everybody is gunning for us."

Mueller's biggest concern is making sure her top players play, well, like big-time players. In Tuesday's win over Central Florida, Mueller said nobody on the team stepped up and played well. She realizes that as the Bulls head down the stretch, that can't happen.

- Antonya English covers South Florida athletics. She can be reached at (813) 727-8810 or at english@sptimes.com.

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