By JEANINE BIGGS
The men’s soccer team picked up an important win against Florida Tech on Saturday night. Playing to a large crowd of family, classmates and even alumni for homecoming, the Spartans took on fellow Sunshine State Conference rival Florida Tech, securing a 3-2 win. With the game being the last of the season at home, the team recognized their seniors for their last game at Pepin Stadium, but the focus remained on the game in front of them.
“With the demands of our conference and every game being a must win situation for us, the focus needs to remain constant,” said Head Coach Adrian Bush. “Homecoming is always exciting and we want to send our senior group off with a win in their last home game at Pepin Stadium.”
The seniors played a huge part in picking up the crucial win for the team. With senior Felipe De Sousa opening the scoring in the first half, followed by Viktor Strand, the Spartans went into halftime with confidence outshooting their opponent 6-4 and up 2-0. The second half was a bit harder on the Spartans with Florida Tech evening up the score with two timely goals. The veteran seniors didn’t panic and wound up pulling off some heroics with a crucial strike in the 88th minute of the game with De Sousa netting the final goal with an assist to senior Romario Grant.
With the win over Florida Tech, the Spartans extended their win streak to two games with the prior games ending a tie and a win. The Spartans also extended their undefeated streak at home with a record of 5-0 at Pepin Stadium.
“We are definitely confident having not lost the last four games. However, we have to maintain the reality that every game is a must-win and we need to stay focused, committed, and work harder than every other team in order to get good results,” said senior defenseman John Bentham.
With the season coming to a close, the Spartans will have tough competition in their remaining two games. Heading out on the road for the final two games, the team will have to continue their play in order to repeat as South Region Champions heading into the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) tournament. The team will head into rival territory as they go head-to-head with St. Leo University on Wednesday.
“St. Leo is always a tough place to go, and we always find it hard to get a good result over the last four years I have been here,” said senior forward Monty Berrow. “We will have to compete all over the field and play our game.”
With the festivities of senior night and homecoming weekend in the books, the Spartans are focused on making their postseason bid a memorable one for the eight seniors who will be leaving the team after this season. For Richard Trench, John Bentham, Monty Berrow, Bay Downing, Felipe De Sousa, Romario Grant, Diego Ornelas and Zach Soufl, this is their chance to close out their college soccer careers on a great note.
“Being on the soccer team has elevated my whole college experience. It takes sacrifice but is definitely worth it in the long run,” Berrow said. “The teammates I have played alongside over the last four years are some of my best friends and those friendships will be maintained for years to come.”
With a large portion of the team playing in their final season, the coaches are aware of the change that is on the horizon for the future of the team.
“Every year is different and we want to improve each day as a team. From a staff to the players, that is our mindset,” Bush said. “We are pleased with the progress and I feel there were some tough lessons early on this year that have made us a better team. On and off the field, this is a very close group.”
The team is as determined as ever to make it into the NCAA tournament and make a run for the championship. It may have not gone as the planned in the beginning of the season, but the team has found their stride and are hoping to ride it out in the tough games that are in front of them.
Jeanine Biggs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org