by Christian Pascoal
The soccer season is upon us at the University of Tampa and both the mens and womens programs have high hopes for the season ahead.
“We`re very excited about the team we have. We really want to build off of last year,” said Erin Switalski, UT women’s soccer head coach. Switalski, now in her fifth season as head coach, hopes to build off the team`s 7-6-4 record a year ago and a fourth place finish in the Sunshine State Conference.
The UT women’s team also came in at number four in this season`s SSC Preseason Poll.
It`s not all smooth sailing for the Spartans, as they will be relying on five freshmen to make significant contributions to the team immediately.
“Our seniors from last year will be tough to replace,” said Switalski. “But the freshman jumped in right away and came in in great shape.”
Switalski said all of her newcomers are going to be needed and are equally important to the teams overall success.
The veteran leadership on the team is led by captains Lacy Nasello, senior defender and Megan Bromwell, junior goalkeeper.
“Our captains have a really good balance between them,” said Switalski. “They do a great job of connecting with everyone.”
Switalski stressed that she has the same expectation for every player on the team, no matter if they’re an incoming freshman or a senior captain.
“Leadership comes from within on this team,” said Switalski. “That`s why we have the same expectations for everyone on our roster.”
As the season approaches, the UT women’s team is already in their toughest part of the season.
“Honestly the toughest part of the season is right now,” said Switalski. “It`s just hard to prepare for the season since we`ve only been back for a week and a half.”
The UT women’s soccer team opened their season with great excitement on Friday, Sept. 6, at home against West Alabama. In the first half of the game the Alabama Tigers led 2-1. During the second half of the game, the Spartans and Tigers went back and forth each scoring, which led to a 3-2 win on behalf of the Tigers.
“I feel like we did really well during that game. Our possession and movement was much better in this game than past games, and I feel that moving forward we will continue to improve aspects of our game,” said Sophia Masut, sophomore midfielder.
Sophia was hopeful moving forward despite the loss, their skills and team-work was only getting better. She believes they will continue to become stronger and improve as the season is still fresh.
The men’s team enters the 2019 season in a much different place than the women’s squad, but they share the same lofty goals.
“The expectation is to win the conference and the national title,” said Adrian Bush, UT men’s soccer head coach. “That`s the measuring stick we have set here for the UT athletics department.”
Bush, now in his 15 season as head coach of the men’s team, has high expectations for a team coming off a 3-6-1 season last year and finishing eighth in the SSC, but a year of experience can make all the difference to a college program.
“We had a young group of players last year that`s a year older now,” said Bush. “Their change of mentality in that span is inspiring.”
Injuries also significantly hindered the Spartans last season.
“Four key contributors for our team were out hurt last year,” said Bush. “We`re getting all those guys back this season.”
The team will rely heavily on its junior class headlined by Juancho Fernandez, junior forward. As a sophomore last year, Fernandez led the Spartans in both goals scored (8) and points (18).
Along with Fernandez, the Spartans will look towards Jake Richards, senior goalkeeper to have a big year. Richards made All SSC Second Team in 2018 and is the de facto leader of the team.
“We haven`t had our captains vote yet, but I`d be surprised if Jake Richards isn’t one of them,” said Bush. “He`s the leader of our team and he`s really stepped up.”
Bush believes this is one of the deepest groups he`s ever had and gained immeasurable experience in 2018.
“Our young players took in a lesson last year, they didn’t realize what it was going to take,” said Bush. “Now they know, we are UTampa, everyone is trying to beat us.”
Men’s soccer dropped their first game in a double overtime heartbreaker, losing 2-1 to West Florida on Sept. 6.
Christian Pascoal can be reached at email@example.com