Holding a two-goal lead midway through the first half, and appearing to have control of its Big East Tournament quarterfinal at Notre Dame, things were looking good for No.13 South Florida to advance to next weekend’s semifinals, and a chance to retain its title.
Then, everything went wrong.
Notre Dame scored goals just before both halftime and the end of regulation to tie the game 2-2 and send the game to overtime, and the Fighting Irish then kept their nerve to win a shootout 5-4 to advance to face Louisville on Friday night.
Jorge Mora had given the Bulls the lead in the third minute, taking advantage of good work by Sebastian Thuriere and Hasani Sinclair to score his fourth goal of the season. Thuriere would then head home from Kevin Olali’s cross to put the Bulls up 2-0 in the 23rd minute.
But after taking their lead, the Bulls let the Irish back into the game, as Notre Dame spurned a pair of chances before pulling a goal back in the 43rd minute, Bright Dike scoring after being put through by Michael Thomas.
Less than a minute later, the Bulls were reduced to 10 men as Francisco Aristeguieta was sent off for his second yellow card. Playing a man down for the entire second half, the Bulls did a good job of restricting the number of shots that got through to goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, and almost caught the Irish to restore their two-goal lead when Thuriere had his header cleared off the goalline by Thomas.
The Bulls resistance was finally broken down in the 83rd minute as Aaron Maund headed in off the post to tie the game, sending it to overtime.
Thomas was again the hero for the Irish in overtime, clearing a shot by Bernardo Anor off the goalline, but neither side was able to break the deadlock in the extra 20 minutes, sending the game to a shootout. There, all five Notre Dame shooters beat Attinella. The Bulls matching them shot for shot until the fifth round, when Thuriere fired his effort off the crossbar, sending the Irish through.
The Bulls should still get an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament, but won’t find out until next Sunday where and when they will next take the field.