TAMPA — No. 7 seed USF defeated No. 10 seed and previously unbeaten New Mexico 6-5 on penalty kicks in the third round of the men's NCAA Tournament, delighting an energetic and historic Corbett Soccer Stadium crowd Sunday night.
After 110 scoreless minutes, including two 10-minute overtime sessions, the Bulls won when graduate student goalkeeper Chris Blais stopped Carson Baldinger on a penalty kick, sending the stadium-record 3,592 fans into a frenzy. Moments before, senior midfielder Santi Alexis, who didn't play during regulation or overtime, booted what turned into the winner past Lobos goalkeeper Victor Rodriguez.
USF (13-3-4) faces Creighton at 2 p.m. Saturday in Omaha, Neb., with the winner advancing to the Final Four. Creighton beat UC-Santa Barbara 2-1 Sunday.
New Mexico (17-1-3) was ranked No. 1 in the coaches' poll.
"I'm really pleased with our guys," said USF coach George Kiefer. "And, obviously, you know, Chris Blais, I've got to take my hat off to him with the PKs, to come up with the saves he came up with. I know he took a chance on us in transferring (from Michigan), and it says a lot about him to get us to this point. I'm really happy for him right now."
The teams went into a second round of penalty kicks after remaining tied at 4 through the first round. USF star forward Dom Dwyer, who went third in the first round, had his kick stopped by Rodriguez, forcing Blais to make a stop. He knocked away Blake Smith's kick on the next shot.
"I tried to keep my ground as long as I could, so he didn't know which way I was going," Blais said. "I went the right way. Those are the feelings you work really hard for in college."