The UT women’s soccer team ended their regular season by winning their final home game on senior night 8-0 over Warner on Oct. 28. They then went on to win their final away game 2-1 at Palm Beach Atlantic on Oct. 30.
After a disappointing home loss against Rollins three days earlier by a score of 2-1, the Spartans were keen on bouncing back and getting the win on senior night. The Spartans impressively demolished the Royals by a score of 8-0. Prior to the game, the Spartans honored their four graduating seniors Arielle Gonzalez, Jenny Karl, Gabby Russo and Candice Shields on the field.
“It felt kind of surreal,” said Gonzalez, describing how her competitive career is coming to an end after playing the sport since the age of five. “It is an interesting feeling. I’m still getting used to it.”
One of the biggest standouts of the UT women’s soccer team over the past few years has been Candice Shields. She has been a regular starter for the team since her freshman year, providing consistency within the starting lineup.
“Candice Shields has had a fantastic career with us for four years. She always leaves her heart on the field. We will miss her speed and aggression next season,” said Lucey, when asked about the defender’s college career coming to a close.
Gabby Russo has been another solid performer for the Spartans throughout her collegiate career, winning several awards and honors along the way.
She was awarded first-team All-SSC and second-team NSCAA All-South Region her freshman year, and continued to back up her strong showings in the subsequent seasons. She was once again awarded first-team All-SSC and second-team NSCAA All-South Region during her sophomore year, when she also was selected to the SSC All-championship team.
Her junior season, she was twice named SSC Offensive Player of the Week. Coach Lucey discusses the valuable talents that Russo possesses.
“Gabby Russo has been one of the top players in the SSC and region the past few years. A player blessed with skill, technique and pace. She has tormented defenses and hopefully will finish off her career with a strong postseason showing,” said Lucey. The forward has played a key role in her team’s offense, scoring four and assisting another 10 goals this season alone.
During her first season, Arielle Gonzalez played in just seven games for the Spartans. Her playing time drastically increased throughout her sophomore season, as she compiled 289 minutes in total.
Also, she recorded two assists in 19 games played, making her integral part of the Spartans lineup.
By her junior year, she netted her first two career goals as a Spartan in 17 games played. Coach Lucey touched on how much Gonzalez has improved since her freshman year.
“Arielle Gonzalez is one of our most technical players but struggled in her first season with the physical side of the game. We give Arielle a lot of credit for her tremendous work rate to turn her career upwards and become a key member of the team the past three years. A gifted player who is capable of the unexpected,” Lucey said about one of the team’s most important midfielders.
Unfortunately for the other senior on the team, Jenny Karl did not see any action this season since she tore her ACL during the preseason. However, Coach Lucey is sure that she would’ve made a significant impact on the team this year had she been able to play.
“She has grown as an individual and player so much these past few seasons and is also a team captain. Another player who would run through a brick wall for her team,” Lucey said.
The Spartans ended the regular season with 12 wins, three losses, and three ties. They peaked at the No. 12 position in the national rankings, although they are currently unranked going into the postseason.
“The season was fairly successful overall and we overcame a few hurdles. We are disappointed in ourselves for a few of the results as we basically handed games away. Hopefully, we have learned from these mistakes and can move forward from here,” Coach Lucey said.
Lucey is confident for the postseason. “Our team knows we are capable of winning the SSC tournament and going deep into the NCAA tournament if selected. We have to tighten up defensively and stop leaking weak goals and hopefully get the attack firing beginning this week,” Lucey said.
The Spartans are off to a good start in the SSC Tournament, after defeating Eckerd 2-0 at Pepin Stadium on Tuesday night.
They will play against Barry University on Friday in Miami Shores for a spot in the SSC Championship.
Andrew Stamas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org