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Big East upstarts are primed for showdowns
September 21st, 2007 8AM
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TAGS:  college men


The Big East has three men's teams ranked among the top seven teams in the Soccer America rankings -- No. 2 Connecticut, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 7 West Virginia -- and they will all be tested this weekend.

As the Big East moves into full swing, four upstarts, all unranked nationally in the Soccer America Preseason Top 25, are off to great starts.

South Florida (5-0-0) has broken into the Soccer America Top 25 at No. 23, while DePaul (4-0-0), Villanova (5-1-0) and Syracuse (3-0-3) could crack the Top 25 with big weekends.

SOUTH FLORIDA. The Bulls open their Big East schedule Friday night with a match against No. 2 Connecticut that should draw a big crowd to the USF Soccer Stadium.

"This is a great opportunity to play the No. 2 ranked team in the country at home," said head coach George Kiefer, who will be facing his mentor, Ray Reid of UConn.

Kiefer's solid recruiting class has made up for the loss of a pair of undergraduates, U.S. U-20 Anthony Wallace to FC Dallas and Rodrigo Hidalgo to the USL's Minnesota Thunder.

Kiefer started four freshmen in USF's 6-1 win over American last Saturday: former U.S. U-17 Diego Restrepo in goal, fellow Floridian Andre Mittoo on defense and Trinidadian Javed Mohammed and Venezuelan Bernardo Anor in midfield.

Anor and German Simon Schoendorf both had hat tricks against AU.

DEPAUL. The Blue Demons, who host Connecticut on Sunday, are the only team in the country to have not allowed a goal this season.

Goalie Brian Visser set a school record last Friday in DePaul's 2-0 win with his fourth consecutive shutout.  The Blue Demons' 4-0-0 record is their best start in program history.

Coach Craig Blazer went almost entirely with freshmen and sophomores last season when the Blue Demons qualified for the Big East Tournament -- their first appearance in a conference tournament since 1998 -- and that experience has paid off.

It's also helped that DePaul will have opened up with its first six games at Wish Field. Before meeting UConn, the Blue Devils host Providence on Friday.

VILLANOVA. The Wildcats are sure on a roll. They posted perhaps the biggest win in the history of the program when they knocked off Duke, 1-0, in Durham two weeks ago, and they take a five-game winning streak -- the last four all shutouts -- into weekend games at home against Marquette and No. 3-ranked Notre Dame.

The core of Coach Larry Sullivan's team is his senior class, led by four-year starters Matt Sleece and Danny DeMasters and goalkeeper Jason Friel.

Another senior starter, Farris Fakhoury, made the Wildcats squad after being cut as a freshman.

Sophomore Mike Seamon (five goals and one point) has already topped his 2006 scoring production when he led Villanova in scoring.

SYRACUSE. The Orange is off to its best start in more than 20 years, going 3-0-3 in first six games of the season. In most recent outing, the Orange routed Fordham, 3-0, in its home opener.

Dean Foti has plenty of experience with three seniors, four juniors and three sophomores in his projected lineup against Pitt Friday in the first of two Big East games at home. The Orange faces No. 7 West Virginia on Sunday.

Floridian Hansen Woodruff has followed up on a solid freshman season with four goals and four assists in Syracuse's first six games. Senior Brad Peetom, one of four starters from Canada, has been outstanding on the backline.

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