Way back in mid-November of last year, the Lady Spartans’ loss in the Final Four to eighth-ranked Grand Valley State was tough to take. At least they could find solace in an incredible season that brought them their furthest run in the NCAA Division II Tournament in school history. The loss of head coach Bobby Johnston could be a much different story.
Johnston resigned as head coach of the women’s soccer team, deciding to pursue his career in Division I. He makes the trip back to his alma mater, James Madison University, to be an assistant coach.
It’s a big blow to the Lady Spartans and for the University of Tampa, as Johnston had taken a program that was struggling to find any sort of success to an undeniable force in the Sunshine State Conference. A look at just how much Johnston has brought to the team is overwhelming.
He’s the all-time winningest coach in UT women’s soccer. He helped guide the team to their first ever SSC Tournament title in 2004 and a regular season title in 2005. The team repeated as SSC champs in 2006, making it all the way to the Final Four, a feat no other Tampa women’s soccer team had done before. He was awarded back-to-back NSCAA South Region Coach of the Year honors.
Johnston has also been a tireless worker when it comes to recruiting, a big reason for the team’s success. He has brought in players that have made an immediate impact, including recent freshman standout Jocelyn Charette. With all these accomplishments, it’s easy to see why Johnston was so sought after.
Who is the next in line to take hold of the new coaching position? Assistant coach Edmundo Rodriguez seems like an obvious candidate. He was as active an assistant coach a team could have. During games, he was up patrolling the team just as much as Johnston. A connection has already been built with the team. His opportunity may not be too far behind.
The lasting image Johnston leaves behind is one of pure excellence. The program is now light years ahead of where it was when he took over. Johnston himself showed anticipation with the new recruits that were due in next fall. The team is in tremendous shape.
The time of leading the Lady Spartans towards historic levels of success has come to a sudden and sad stop for Johnston. But the legacy will remain for seasons to come.
Johnston’s Tampa Career
2003: 16-6 (Lost in first round of NCAA Tournament)
2004: 13-4-2 (Lost in NCAA Regional Finals)
2005: 14-2-2 (Lost in NCAA Regional Finals)
2006: 18-3-1 (Lost in National Semifinals)