The Spartans traveled to Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee to kick off their Sunshine State Conference (SSC) title push against the Florida Tech Panthers in the first round.
Tampa started off scoring the first points of the game, and never looked back. Junior guard Juliana Cavallaro, who was recently named All Conference, led the Spartans with 19 points.
She shot 55% from the field, and was 5-7 from the charity stripe. Junior guard/forward Ellen Nurmi was close behind, scoring 15 points while shooting 50% on the day. She finished the game with seven rebounds and eight assists as well. Senior forward Aisha Rodney also finished the game with double digit points, scoring 11 points.
The Spartans started the game off hot taking an early 11-2 lead six minutes into the contest. Tampa showed another dominant performance as they lead by a commanding 21 points at the half.
Nurmi was the star of the first half scoring 11 of her 15 points in the half while shooting three of five from behind the arc. With six and a half minutes remaining in the second half, Florida Tech cut the lead to within nine.
This was the closest they would come, as the Spartans pulled away to win by 17. Tampa’s work under the boards powered them to victory as they recorded 35 defensive rebounds, to Florida Tech’s 17. Tampa would go on to win by a final score of 69-52.
In the second round, the Spartans faced Nova Southeastern, who played Tampa tough all year. UT won the first matchup by a score of 76-75; while Nova Southeastern went on to grab the second game by a score 55-53.
The two teams were evenly matched as they were tied at 16 with 8:24 left in the first half. Nova Southeastern finished the half on a 13-2 run to take a 29-18 lead into halftime. Rodney and junior center Taylor McVey led the way for the Spartans in the first half as they combined for 13 of the 18 points.
The Spartans went cold in the second half, as they were only able to make six field goals for the remainder of the game. Nova Southeastern was dominant in the second half as they shot 50% from the field, making 13 of their final 26 shots down the stretch. Nova Southeastern was a force on the glass as the outrebounded Tampa 40-28, with 14 of them coming on the offensive glass.
The Spartans would go on to lose this one by a score of 67-40. After the game, coach Jessee said, “there was not much we could do differently. We did not shoot it very well and our defense really let us down.”
“We had a very inconsistent season but we were able to start to come together toward the end. We had too many injuries along the year to gain the traction we wanted. The best thing is we bring back seven seniors to next year’s team so we have high hopes for them,” said Jessee talking about the season.
Looking forward to next season, Jessee talked about the two things he was looking forward to. “First, will be to see how hard our returning players train over the summer. Second will be to see how good our recruiting class be.”
Ed Kerner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org