TAMPA — USF men's soccer coach George Kiefer was an assistant at Connecticut for five years before he joined the Bulls in 2002, and though he has been back there before, he might feel something extra when the No. 24 Bulls travel to face the No. 6 Huskies on Friday night.
"Connecticut is a great place, with 5,000 or 6,000 people there for a game," he said. "It's a great environment. My mom didn't particularly like my head hung on a post."
That happened in 2007, when the Bulls had six losses and three were to UConn, the last one coming in the NCAA Tournament round of 16 in Storrs.
The Bulls (4-1-1) have never beaten the Huskies (5-0-1). Kiefer is 0-4 against his college coach, Ray Reid, for whom he played and worked at Southern Connecticut State before both moved to UConn. Oh, and about that head-on-a-stake thing …
"They had my picture on a bunch of bags and staked posts. It's a fun environment. I don't mind it," Kiefer said.
Kiefer's mother, Louise, traveled from New York for that most recent match in Storrs, but the coach said he'll ask her not to make the trip this week. But she can watch the game on TV. It's being broadcast on ESPNU, giving the Bulls, winners of four in a row, a major platform.
"I think it's huge. To be in every household across the country is a nice thing for men's soccer, for sure," Kiefer said.
Two weeks ago the Bulls had a 2-0 home win against Virginia Tech broadcast on Fox Soccer Channel, and Kiefer said the exposure was great for the program. "I had guys I don't even know calling me about that game," he said.
Kiefer, who was on Reid's staff for a national title at UConn in 2000, has one Big East crown with the Bulls. His team this year is talented enough to contend for another, as well as a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
"We're training a little bit less, we're subbing a little more, doing things to have good energy in October and November, going out of our way to do that this year," Kiefer said.
Friday's match will be a showdown between two of the nation's top goalkeepers. USF's Jeff Attinella, a senior from Countryside, has allowed three goals in six matches; UConn's Josh Ford has allowed two in six. Both are in the nation's top 20 in goals-against average.
THIS AND THAT: The volleyball team, off to a 4-7 start, hopes to jump-start things with four straight home matches to open Big East play, starting with a match Friday against Marquette. After those four, the Bulls go 26 days without a match in the Corral, which had a crowd of 703 on hand for Saturday's five-game win against Jacksonville, which snapped a four-match losing streak. ... The women's soccer team (5-2-1) opened Big East play with a 2-1 loss to Marquette on Friday. The Bulls stay home to face Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Greg Auman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.