Elite Spartans Blow Out Tusculum

Just how much more came the women’s soccer team accomplish this season? They added another milestone to their program with an impressive 5-0 win over the nineteenth-ranked Tusculum College Pioneers. The win puts them in the Final Four for the first time in school history.

“It’s crazy,” said midfielder Courtney Evans. “We had never made it to the Elite Eight before, and now we’re on our way to the Final Four.”

Both teams started the game with a lot of energy. Few teams have been able to keep up with the Lady Spartans’ speed, but Tusculum matched their effort in the early going. The energy didn’t last long.

Just 7:11 into the game, forward Shelby Kuni scored Tampa’s first goal. Forward Jocelyn Charette sent a pass to Kuni in front of the goal. Kuni’s defender slipped and fell, giving Kuni a clear shot. She rifled it passed the goalkeeper into the right corner.

Midway through the first half, Charette scored the first of her three goals on the night. After a beautiful pass from midfielder Katie Callahan, Charette embarrassed her defender with a nice juke move. She then fired a shot that went off the fingertips of goalkeeper Whitney Wardrop and into the goal.

Going in to the half, Tampa was in control. Head coach Bobby Johnston felt that Charette had a chance for a big night.

“At halftime, we challenged her,” he said. “We felt like she had a big advantage out there.”

Charette answered the challenge.

Minutes into the second half, Charette scored to make it 3-0. She was able to get past two defenders. She held the ball until the goalkeeper committed, and then shot it into the right corner.

Minutes later, Charette got her third when she sneaked in a shot past a group of defenders. Forwards Samantha Robinson and Kuni were credited with an assist.

Midfielder Brittany Tortorella scored Tampa’s final goal. Forward Sarah Sheehan recorded the assist. The Tampa bench exploded with excitement for Tortorella’s first collegiate goal. It’s this kind of chemistry and team-first attitude that have placed the Lady Spartans among the nation’s best.

It was a great victory for the program, but midfielder Marissa Mohammed believes the team played with extra motivation.

“It was a big win for us because of our seniors,” she said. “We made a promise to them we would get here, and we were finally able to do it.”

With so much success, there’s always a chance that a team can lose focus. Coach Johnston believes that won’t happen with this squad.

“This is a pretty grounded group,” he says. “I like our mentality and they understand what we have to do.”

Mohammed understands the importance of staying focused.

“We have to continue to play strong physically and mentally,” she said. “We have to play with confidence, but not arrogance.”

The Lady Spartans will now travel to Pensacola to face Grand Valley State on Thursday, Nov. 16. The winner will go on to play in the NCAA finals.

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