By DEVON CONWAY
After a strong season last year finishing in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, UT Men’s Soccer is ready to kick it back into action. The team was ranked third in the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) preseason poll among the other ten SSC conference teams. Despite this, head coach Adrian Bush could care less about the rankings.
“Preseason polls mean nothing to us; the only thing we are focused on is our next game. Polls and rankings are for the fans and media to debate,” Bush said.
With the major success of last season, the players wanted to come in fit and game ready. Bush said the team performed well over the summer and feel the success of last season to motivate and really commit to each other.
The expectations for the program this season are to be the best, like every year. Bay Downing, a senior forward, has high expectations for himself and his fellow teammates.
“This season is the last chance I get to wear the Spartan colors,” Downing said. “Overall our team expectations this year are to win the national championship. If everyone believes in the process, I think anything can be possible with the team we have.”
The success of last season is still present in the minds of the players and coaching staff. Although Bush believes the triumph of last season can transfer over to this season.
“Time will tell; we feel we have added the right pieces to make that next step,” Bush said. “We were very specific on who we looked to bring in as we wanted student athletes with the core values that reflect our University, history of our soccer program, and the athletic department. Hard work makes champions.”
With the addition of 13 new players for the Spartans, the team has transformed from last year. With some new transfers and freshman from all over the world, Downing thinks the Spartans can still perform as well as or even better than last season.
“We have been together for three weeks now, so we have settled down really well,” Downing said. “There are a lot of new faces but they are all great lads. Training is going great but we are really eager to get the season started and let the results do the talking.”
The Spartans have only seven home games this season, all conference play except for their game against Florida National on Sept. 10. The Spartans’ biggest rival is Lynn University, who last season stole the SSC Championship from the Spartans, but the Spartans bounced back in the NCAA tournament and knocked out Lynn to advance in the tournament. Despite this, every game is crucial for the Spartans.
“Every game is important in this league but we always have good matches against Lynn and Palm Beach Atlantic,” Downing said. “The main focus right now is take it game by game. If we all do our jobs I think the NCAA tournament will be the focus in November.”
Bush also believes that every game is important for the success as a program going forward. The main focus for the Spartans is to get better every time they step on the field, no matter if it’s a game stiuation or at practice.
In the next few matches, the Spartans are set to take on Florida National on Sept. 10; Auburn Montgomery on Sept. 13 in Montgomery, Alabama; and Nova Southeastern on Sept. 16 at home.
Devon Conway can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org