By MATTHEW ROLISON
After facing abnormal circumstances due to Hurricane Irma, the UT men’s soccer team came back strong in their home opener against Eckerd College, securing a 3-2 overtime triumph.
The closing of the school from Sept. 6-13 caused a disruption not only in classes, but also in athletics. The men’s home opener scheduled against Florida National University, as well as a road matchup against Auburn-Montgomery, due to the campus-wide closure, were canceled and will not be made up.
After dealing with numerous distractions prior to the home opener, head coach Adrian Bush elaborated on the struggles the team faced during the closure.
“It was a tough couple weeks as we had to deal with Hurricane Irma,” Bush said. “We had nine players leave Tampa, so we had limited training with our full team. Considering the 16-day layoff and loss of three region games due to the Hurricane, this was a game where we truly started the season over.”
Using that mindset, the UT men’s soccer team started the season over again on a high note. Being at home for the first time this season gave them the energy they needed to pull out the tight victory. Eckerd put up a fight, never letting UT pull away on the scoreboard. UT tallied 10 (8) shots (on goal), compared to Eckerd’s 8 (4) shots (on goal).
Even with everything plaguing UT men’s soccer team, they were able to put enough together to take the victory against Eckerd. After exchanging goals in both periods, junior Ramzi Toure nailed the game-winner in overtime, securing a 3-2 victory. This was UT’s first conference matchup, giving them a 1-0 record within the conference.
Being that this was UT’s first home game of the season, senior goalkeeper and Sports Management major Richard Trench touched on the atmosphere of the match.
“The atmosphere of the team was electric.” Trench said. “I was just praying that we would go out and get the win, which we did.”
Trench elaborated on how the game unfolded.
“I think it was a good, competitive game,” Trench said. “Unfortunately, one guy from the opposing team [Robert Labus] got seriously injured and I think that adds a twist to emotions on both sides.”
Trench went more in-depth on how the beginning of the game started out and how that changed throughout the course of the match, stating, “I think we started out well possessing the ball, moving it around the pitch, but, unfortunately, we didn’t keep that right and Eckerd showed their qualities that forced the game into overtime, where we got the job done.”
Senior forward Bay Downing scored the first goal of the match at 12:29 minutes deep into the 45 minute first half, as well as UT’s second goal of the game at 61:29 minutes into the second half. Both assists came from sophomore forward Juancho Fernandez.
“Being the defending South Region champions, it’s going to take a lot more than [what] we did last year because teams will be eyeing us as a threat,” Trench said. “Our goals are to go out there and win the SSC Championship [again] and go on to win the NCAA Tournament.”
Trench elaborated on what it would take for the team to achieve these goals. “It’s just working hard as a unit and giving it our all in practice and to go out and execute,” Trench said.
The men’s socer team competes again on Saturday, Sept. 30 against Florida Southern in Auburndale.
Matthew Rolison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org