After losing in extra time to #25 St. Edwards (Texas), the seventh ranked University of Tampa’s women’s soccer team responded with a 3-1 victory over Texas A’M Commerce last weekend at the St. Edwards Tournament.
The Spartans open up their Sunshine State Conference schedule Friday, Sept. 15 against Florida Southern College in Lakeland. On Oct. 18, 2005, UT defeated Florida Southern 5-0 in their only match of the season.
Last season brought UT their first SSC Championship in women’s soccer. The Lady Spartans rode a one-loss season into the NCAA Regional Finals where they were upset by the University of West Florida 1-0. The season started with a tie against UWF and ended with a loss to the Argos.
The Spartans scored 64 goals in 2005, compared to only nine for their opponents. In a sport known for low scoring, UT racked up five goals or more in seven of their 18 games.
Shelbi Kuni, Samantha Robinson and Brittany Evans accounted for 36 of those 64 goals last season, and all three have returned this year. Robinson, a senior, is the only one expected to leave the team after this season. Kuni and Robinson were named to the 2005 All-SSC Women’s Soccer first team. Kuni was given the Freshman of the Year Award, and Evans earned second team All-SSC honors.
Already this season Kuni has recorded six goals in four games. Robinson has one goal and six assists so far. The Spartans have out-shot their opponents 91-32 in 2006. Of those 91, an exceptional 53.8 percent have been shots on goal. A combination of speed and skill has given UT a distinct advantage in their contests this season.
Freshmen Jocelyn Charette and Ashley Flateland have combined for five goals and one assist. Their contributions as newcomers have propelled the team closer to the top ranking in the nation.
Junior goalkeeper Shannon Aitken has two shutouts this season and has only allowed four goals in five games. Aitken, also a member of the 2005 All-SSC first team, gave up nine goals in 18 games last season, while recording 46 saves and 12 shutouts.
As experience builds, the team will become more confident and will push farther into the postseason. This year’s team is extremely young, but the potential to grow is large. The Lady Spartans return home on Friday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. to face non-conference opponent Flagler University. Florida Tech visits UT on Sunday, Sept. 24 at 2 p.m.