TAMPA – If there were any thoughts that being ranked No.1 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division II poll last week would go to the University of Tampa men’s soccer team’s heads, a pair of victories against Clayton State and West Georgia quickly put them to rest.
Not that Spartans coach Adrian Bush would have it any other way. Knowing preseason No.1 Cal-State Dominguez Hills and No.2 Dowling had both lost over the weekend, the morning the September 1 poll came out, Bush had his team out early on the practice field for an arduous training session before breaking the news to them that most likely they would be the new No.1 team in the nation later that day.
Bush was pleased with how his side responded to the news, and with the way they played last weekend.
“That was big,” he said. “I think the pressures of that first week are pretty tough, but I think our team handled it well. I think the new poll came out on Tuesday, and we really didn’t hear anything even said about if by the players. They’ve taken it in stride, I think it’s something they understand what goes with that, and that’s working hard. Got to be the hardest working team in the country now.”
OFF THE MARK: Spartans junior forward Lister Warren opened his account for the new season with a pair of goals against West Georgia. Warren scored 11 goals for the Spartans last season, but was overshadowed somewhat by teammates Pascal Milien and now-graduated Ryan Maxwell.
“You’re talking about a guy who quietly had 11 goals (last season),” Bush said. “I think for him it was kind of a down year, but we’re really looking for him to step up not only with his leadership, but on the field, and being that guy who is a 20-goal scorer. He was brilliant last weekend, he really was.”
GOOD SIGNS: Two things sprang to mind for Bush when asked about what he has been pleased with early in the season. First was the play of sophomore midfielder and former Tampa Prep standout Ryan Griffin.
“I looked at tape from the North Georgia game, and he had to win 15 to 20 headers,” Bush said. “He’s such a presence in the center-mid.”
The second was the confidence the Spartans were showing from the beginning of each game. According to Bush, that’s been something he and his assistants have been working on, and with the added experience the squad now holds that confidence is now being reflected in the team’s performances.
“When they’re walking on to the field, they know they’re prepared, they know they’re the better team, and they know they’re going to win,” Bush said. “It’s taken them a while to get that confidence as a team, but I think the experience of our overall group has been the biggest change, and we really saw that from last year.”