With a 10-8 home win over fourteenth-ranked Florida Tech, the Spartans clinched the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) regular season title. This impressive win, their third consecutive, gave the Spartans the top seed for the upcoming SSC Tournament, meaning that UT will host the event this coming weekend.
It was the perfect way for the ninth-ranked Spartans to close out their regular season campaign, as they captured their third win over a top 15 ranked opponent.
Sophomore midfielder Sean Giampietro led the Spartans offensively with three goals. Senior attack Zak Goldbach and junior attack Chris Vetter were also key contributors with two goals each.
Sophomore goalkeeper A.J. Arnold was solid in net for the Spartans, playing the whole game and recording 15 saves on the day. Due to his stellar performance, he was honored with the SSC Defensive Player of the Week award.
The Spartans wrapped up their regular season with a 13-2 overall record, and each of those two losses were against number one ranked teams. They also ended conference play in first place with a perfect 5-0 record against their SSC rivals.
They will open up play in the conference tournament on Friday, with a rematch against fourth-seeded Lynn (the Spartans won 12-6 in their previous meeting this season). If the Spartans win, they will advance to Sunday’s championship against the winner of the Florida Tech vs. Rollins game.
Freshman defender Nick Balzano anticipates the opportunity to host the conference tournament. “We’d love to win this entire tournament especially having home field advantage,” said Balzano. “It’s easy to get up for a game in front of your home crowd to defend your own turf.”
After the SSC Tournament, the Spartans will have one more game before a potential NCAA Tournament appearance. On May 1, the Spartans will host Colorado Mesa.
Though they have had an impressive season, Balzano knows that there is still plenty of room for improvement as his team approaches the postseason.
“Going into the postseason, we are definitely trying to make everything click together as much as possible with the least amount of mistakes. Our best lacrosse has yet to been played, and we aren’t trying to peak until our absolute final game of the season,” said Balzano.
Goldbach strongly believes that his team is capable of winning the National Championship and he wants his team to set their standards high. “My goals and expectations for the postseason are nothing less than a National Championship. I think I speak for my team as well as myself when I say we want nothing less than a National Championship, anything less would definitely leave us short of our ultimate goal and as a senior there is nothing more you want than to go out on top,” said Goldbach.
Despite their championship aspirations, Goldbach is well-aware of the challenges that they will face. “It is going to be a hard road to championship weekend but I think with the talent we have we can go far and compete with the best teams in the country.”
Andrew Stamas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org