By PHIL NOVOTNY
Lauren Cicero, a midfielder for the women’s soccer team, is the only senior on the squad. Cicero appeared in a combined 16 matches in her first two years at UT. However, the hiring of former Florida Gulf Coast University assistant coach Erin Switalski prompted an expanded role for Cicero the next season.
During her junior year, Cicero appeared and started in all 23 games while recording four goals on the season. As a result, the Spartans went 13-5-5 and 5-2-1 in Sunshine State Conference (SSC) play and reached the SSC Championship game before falling to Barry University 2-1 in Miami Shores. Again, the Spartans fell to Barry in the NCAA Regional Final by final score of 1-0.
Switalski explains the transition of her role as a head coach and Cicero’s role under her leadership going into last year. “Everybody gets another chance for a first impression,” Switalski said. “Lauren took that opportunity and ran with it.”
Cicero notes the impact that Switalski has had on her game in addition to the team’s during her career at UT. “I think we’ve evolved a lot as a team, especially me as a person,” Cicero said. “Our classes, as they’ve come in have gotten better and better with our team chemistry.”
In regards to being vocal on the pitch, Cicero tends to lead by example. “I think I’m more of a supportive side of a leader,” Cicero said. “I’m not that person that’s going to be very effective when I yell and scream.”
This season has been a tough one to endure for the Spartans as they’re off to a 1-5 start to begin the 2016 campaign after falling to Nova Southeastern University 3-2 on Saturday night. Cicero recorded an assist on sophomore defender Ali Robinson’s second-half tally. But, it wasn’t enough to salvage the Spartans conference opener. Cicero also has a goal on the statsheet this season in the Spartans 2-1 over the University of North Alabama on Sept. 11.
When asked about Cicero’s role during her senior year, Switalski highlights her leadership on the pitch. “The leadership is a task that not just one person can handle, but she is a driving force of it,” Switalski said. “Throughout the game, you’ll constantly hear her voice of instruction in training sessions to get everyone in the right direction; she’s definitely the voice that you hear.”
On top of her success and leadership on the field, Cicero fits the mold of student-athlete off of it. In her freshman and sophomore year at UT, she earned a spot on the SSC Commissioner’s Honor Roll. In order to be eligible, a student-athlete must have a minimum GPA of 3.20 on a scale of 4.00, according to the SSC.
“I think it’s kept me grounded a lot, especially when it comes to time management,” Cicero said. “You have to perform as an individual, but at the same time, you have a team to look after you.”
Switalski also identifies the most rewarding aspect in coaching Cicero. “Because she is so well-rounded in every aspect of her life, when I get worked up about stuff and really think that little things are a big deal, she’s probably the first person to bring me back down to real life,”Switalski said.
The Spartans will look to turn slow start around on the road against Palm Beach Atlantic on Saturday and Florida Southern College to wrap up the month on Sept 28.
Cicero will miss playing a team sport once she graduates. “Especially being [in] my last year, it kind of hit me that I’ll never be able to play a competitive team sport again,” Cicero said. “When you score, you share it as a team, it’s not just an individual goal… I’m gonna miss it.”
Phil Novotny can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org