It’s not often that a team gets the opportunity to play against two different national number one ranked schools throughout the course of a season. After losing to then number one ranked Limestone two months ago, the Spartans got another chance during their recent trip to Ohio at Lake Erie. Unfortunately, the Spartans fell 13-7 but it was still a great experience for the team. At this point, the two games against number one ranked schools are the only ones UT has lost, and they have an overall record of 11-2 (3-0 in Sunshine State Conference play).
Junior midfielder Matt Bilak described how unique it felt to play against the top team in the country. “It always is fun going into games being the underdog because you never really know what is going to happen. We made some costly errors in the beginning of the game and it ended up costing us at the end,” Bilak said. Bilak, who scored a goal in the 2nd period, added that it was good to be challenged in ways they had not been challenged before as a team.
Junior attack Mike Morris and sophomore attack Conor Whipple contributed with two goals each. Bilak, senior attack Zak Goldbach, and sophomore midfielder Sean Giampietro all each scored as well. Sophomore A.J. Arnold made seven saves on the night.
Senior midfielder Nick Ferreiro has been an integral part of the team this season. He has been the go-to guy for faceoffs, having won 135 of 210 for a combined 64.3% win percentage. He agreed that the two games against top-ranked opponents were both unique experiences. “Limestone and Lake Erie were both very good but somewhat different teams. Limestone had longer, deliberate possessions while Lake Erie capitalized on their opportunities between the lines and in transition. I don’t think we played our best games and executed our game plans in either of the games but hopefully we get another shot at them,” Ferreiro said.
The very next day, the Spartans played against another Ohio team, this time Walsh University. They came out victorious, winning it easily by the score of 19-5. Giampietro, Morris, and senior attack Jonathan Franzese led the Spartans with three goals each. Sophomore Shane Giunta and junior Andrew Failla had four and three saves respectively.
Ferreiro spoke about how important it was to be able to bounce back from the loss at Lake Erie with a uplifting win. “Any win is great, especially after a loss. Everyone always feels better and moral is higher when you can avoid a losing streak and start a win streak,” Ferreiro said.
Next up for the Spartans will be two home games against Sunshine State Conference rivals Lynn and Florida Tech to close out the regular season. They then have the SSC Tournament, with the semifinals on April 24 and if they advance, the final on April 26. Afterwards, they will host Colorado Mesa on May 1 before potentially competing in the NCAA Tournament which will commence on May 9.
Though their results have been quite good, UT is still hungry to do better. “I think the season has gone well but I still don’t think we’ve come close to our full potential. We need to constantly be improving all over the field and find some consistency,” Ferreiro said.
Bilak also believes that the team can finish the season strong. “We are into the second half of our season and we are in good shape. We are standing at 11-2 and our only losses have came to the best two teams in the country. We need to come together and play as a team if we are going to be able to make a run in the NCAA tournament,” Bilak said.
Andrew Stamas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org