By PHIL NOVOTNY
Having a 1-6 record is not an ideal start to any team’s season. Yet, the UT women’s soccer team has turned the tide. Now, the Spartans’ overall record is 4-6-1, while their Sunshine State Conference (SSC) record stands at 2-2-1 after their recent four-game streak without being defeated (3-0-1 since Sept. 24) dating back to last month.
“There’s no point in dwelling from the past, only to learn from it and I think we all learned from it effort wise,” said sophomore forward Robyn-Anne Whittaker.
The Spartans’ latest stretch of games included triumphs over SSC rivals Palm Beach Atlantic University, Florida Southern College and provisional SSC members Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (awaiting acceptance of their application from the NCAA) by a final score of 2-1 in double-overtime.
“We have been taking advantage of opportunities and making the most out of our chances in the final third [of the game] throughout the last several games,” said head coach Erin Switalski. “Any time you do that, your chances of getting a positive result increases.”
In the Spartans’ latest matchup against conference foe Lynn University, UT tied the game after a late second half goal by sophomore defender Ali Robinson to tie the game 1-1. After two overtime periods, neither Lynn or UT could break the deadlock as the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
“The last game [Lynn] we played was tough on all of us because it was a game that should have ended with a different result, but we were not in it from the start and it showed throughout the game, and in the result,” said junior goalkeeper Caroline Frykgard.
In this case, she believes the team learned a lot from the outcome of the Lynn game. “We have learned the lesson of underestimating a team because of their record, and we are ready to step into every game with the attitude of being able to beat whoever we are facing if we put our minds to it,” Frykgard said.
Since the inception of the streak, Frykgard, a 2015 First-Team All-SSC selection, has only allowed three goals in four games. Notably, she recorded seven saves, which helped the Spartans seize a 1-0 shutout over Florida Southern on Sept. 28.
Junior forward Nastasia Asgedom praises Frykgard in terms of being a vocal presence on the team. “She’s not afraid to speak the truth and says what people don’t want to hear,” Asgedom said. “She takes charge and is a leader on the field.” She also mentions that Frykgard’s analysis of the game from the back was another important situational trait that’s benefitted the Spartans.
Even with the Spartans’ revival, they still need to take care of business as they have three more conference games before the SSC Tournament begins on Nov. 1. Until then, the Spartans will face-off against arch-rival Barry University and St. Leo University on the road. Lastly, their regular season finale will be back home against Florida Tech University on Oct. 22.
Asgedom stresses the importance of knocking off their arch-rival and how important the game is to returning players since Barry defeated the Spartans in last year’s SSC Championship Game and again in the NCAA Tournament.
“We worked extremely hard last year, and they [Barry] took it away from us… we want that game back,” Asgedom said.
The consensus amongst the women’s soccer team is that if they stay grounded and play to their capability then they should be able to conclude the regular season on a strong note.
“These next 14 days are extremely important to the success of our season and the girls are fully aware of it,” Switalski said. “We just need everyone to stay focused and work together in order to be successful as a team on the field when it counts.”
Frykgard also shares the sentiments. “We need to step up our game and focus on what is at stake… we really need to focus on putting in the efforts that is needed,” Frykgard said. “I believe that we can win the games that we have left because we have a team that very well can do so; we just need to get on the same page and realize that we can if we do it together.”
Phil Novotny can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org