A Field Divided

Whitney Allen

In the left corner, with a current record of 5-8, we have the UT men’s soccer team. And in the right corner, weighing in with an 11-1 record, the third-ranked women’s soccer team. To make another boxing analogy, we have Mike Tyson in 2006 in the left and Evander Holyfield of 1996 in the right.

In case you don’t understand boxing, Mike Tyson was a beast in 1996. He was competing for the heavyweight title and, given the chance, would probably eat your children. UT men’s soccer last won a National Championship in 2001 and has been in a freefall since then.

Evander Holyfield, on the other hand, beat Tyson in consecutive fights in 1996 and 1997. Our women’s soccer team has consistently demolished teams for the past two years.

They have scored 42 goals to their opponents’ seven. The men have allowed 28 goals and scored 28. Goalkeeper Shannon Aitken has recorded six shutouts in 12 matches. Conversely, Ryan Thompson has recorded the only shutout for the men’s team.

Only one member of the men’s team has been named the SSC Athlete of the Week and that was Ricardo Cardoso in the first week for his four goal performance. The women have captured six Athlete of the Week awards, sweeping offensive and defensive awards two weeks in a row. If the women’s defense hadn’t kept the ball out of the box the entire game, Aitken easily could have earned yet another award but she only had one ball shot at her.

I attend almost every game. It is way more entertaining to watch the women than the men; they have more fire, more energy and most of all, they seem to want to be out there. In their match against Nova Southeastern, two of the men’s players began screaming at each other on the field. Coach Adrian Bush wisely took them out of the game, but the arguing continued on the bench. There was no intensity during the first half, on the field or off it.

Flash back two hours to the women’s game. Katie Callahan took a pass from Samantha Robinson and Kara Rasmussen and put it past the keeper. Eight minutes later, Shelbi Kuni recorded yet another goal on an assist from Emily Stack. As the Spartans quickly ran off with the game, the ladies on the bench were screaming encouragement to their teammates and the players on the field were still running hard.

Nothing changed after SSC Freshman of the Year candidate Jocelyn Charette’s goal in the second half. The bench was excited, and the players warming up to go into the game were cheering their teammates on.

In the second game, it was painful to watch the Nova Southeastern Sharks run past the men’s team. A silent bench was broken by an argument among players. A good team can overcome officiating errors, yet this team seemed content to throw in the towel after each bad call.

The statistics weakly support evidence of poor officiating, with Tampa being called for 22 fouls to Nova’s 17. Three yellow cards were given to UT players and two to the Sharks. Referee Shane Moody attempted to control a wild game.

Ultimately it was a penalty that lost the game for the men. The Sharks’ Romaine Onteniente put a penalty kick just out of the reach of keeper Ryan Thompson with a little over a minute left in extra time. This was the most fire I saw during the whole game. After the call, the team, the coaches and the fans were all screaming at the refs.

In most sports and especially in collegiate competition, heart and fire wins championships. Ask George Mason how team fire helped them in the 2006 NCAA Basketball Tournament. Ask Auburn how lack of preparation and lack of excitement hurt them against lowly Arkansas last week.

Attendance for games is on the rise here at the University of Tampa. It’s time the men’s team takes an example from the Lady Spartans and plays their hearts out for 90 minutes. The marketing team is working hard to draw fans to every game. The women’s soccer team is ranked third, the volleyball team (also a women’s sport) is No. 4, and the women’s cross country team is No. 13 in the nation. The ladies have taken the lead, and it’s time for the men to stop being Mike Tyson and step into the ring prepared. We’ll show up to the games. You play your hearts out.

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