STORRS, Conn. – The University of Connecticut men’s soccer team fell in penalty kicks to South Florida on Friday night in the semifinal round of the American Athletic Conference Tournament. The Bulls converted two penalty kicks, while all four UConn players missed their attempts. The Huskies move to 10-6-3 overall with the loss, and South Florida now stands at 10-7-2 on the season.
Connecticut outshot the Bulls, 16-3, in the draw and redshirt freshman Scott Levene (Stamford, Conn.) didn’t need to make any saves to tally his 8th shutout of the year. Sophomores Kwame Awuah (Toronto, Ontario) and Ethan Vanacore-Decker (Manahawkin, N.J.) each recorded four shots to pace the Huskies, who lost in PKs to the Bulls in the postseason for the second straight season.
The Huskies produced the majority of the scoring chances in the early going, starting in the 22nd minute when sophomore right back Jakob Nerwinski (Lawrenceville, N.J.) sent in a cross from just outside of the box to redshirt junior forward Tyler Leeman (Oakdale, Conn.). The cross connected with Leeman’s head, which sent the ball wide left of the goal.
UConn had another opportunity to score on a header in the 42nd minute after Connecticut was awarded a corner kick. Freshman left back Dylan Greenberg (Dix Hills, N.Y.) found freshman Elliot Ackroyd (Nottingham, England) on the cross, and the center back sent in a header that went just over the bar. Awuah tallied a game-high two shots in the first half for the Huskies, who held a 5-1 shot advantage in the opening period.
Vanacore-Decker (Manahawkin, N.J.) nearly put UConn on the board in the 62nd minute off a beautiful cross from Nerwinski, who chipped the ball to the Connecticut striker in the far left post. The ball fell to Vanacore-Decker’s foot, but his shot attempt just missed wide left. USF’s Brandon Riley drew his second yellow card in the 74th minute, forcing the Bulls to play with 10 men the rest of the way.
In the 80th minute, it was junior forward Nicholas Zuniga (Norwalk, Conn.) with the chance to score off another dangerous cross from the Huskies. Greenberg’s ball into the box connected with Zuniga, who fired a header that veered left of the goal.
Connecticut produced one more scoring chance in the final minutes of regulation when Awuah sent a deep ball into the attacking third towards Vanacore-Decker. The forward ran out of space before USF keeper Spasoje Stefanovic cleared the danger and the two teams headed to overtime.
UConn’s first quality scoring chance in overtime came in the 94th minute on a Connecticut counterattack. Beso Marco’s long volley found Awuah, who slipped it to Vanacore-Decker near the top of the box. Awuah had a chance in the final minute of the first overtime period following another UConn corner of the game. His shot in the box was cleared off the line and the teams went to another extra period. The Huskies and Bulls were unable to convert in the second overtime period and the match headed to penalty kicks.