BOCA RATON — The UT men’s soccer team earned their first NCAA playoff berth since 2001 with a 4-2 victory over 10th-ranked Lynn on Sunday afternoon in the SSC championship match.
“I’m happy to see UT soccer on the map again,” said coach Adrian Bush. “We’re nowhere near where we could be. There’s still a lot to do. This doesn’t make our season but it certainly adds to the work these players have put in. It’s one of the many goals we had this year.”
Ricardo Cardoso put the Spartans up 1-0 in the 13th minute and added another goal in the 34th.
“It’s all about the attitude,” said Cardoso. “We have chemistry now. These aren’t new guys but we’re finally playing like a team.”
Lynn answered with a goal from Sam Craven in the 53rd minute, but Dan Ingvarsson put Tampa ahead 3-1 with a goal in the 66th minute.
The Fighting Knights pulled within one again in the 68th minute, but Kevin Sierra put the game away with a goal off of a cross in the 73rd.
Lynn entered the match ranked 10th and with only one loss on their record, which was a 4-2 loss in Tampa on Sept. 29.
“I’m happy for the players and the alumni,” said Bush. “I’m an alumnus and it means a lot more to me than [as] the coach.”
Tampa will once again face Lynn on Friday, Nov. 9 in Pensacola in the South regional semifinal.
“To beat them [Lynn] once is tough, to beat them twice is harder, to beat them a third time is a challenge,” said Cardoso. “They’re coming on hard. We’ve given them their only two losses. They have something to prove.”
Clevon George, the second-leading scorer on the team, saw a third match with Lynn as a great opportunity.
“Just to beat them [Lynn] again, handing them three losses to UT, that’d be great,” he said.
Coach Bush saw the match as a huge challenge.
“Lynn is Lynn,” he said. “Its how it has broken out. We look forward to the opportunity to play them. They’ve been the elite status for a long time. There’s a lot of people chasing them. We may be the higher seed but we walk into this game as an underdog. I think personally this regional will have better soccer than the NCAA Final Four.”
Ryan Thompson, a goalkeeper who earned the start in the conference tournament, will be a key in the NCAA regional.
“I have a lot of confidence,” he said. “We know what we can do. Lynn should be worried about facing us.”
NCAA SOUTH REGIONAL
>> Where? First two rounds at the University of West Florida in Pensacola.
>> Who? West Florida, Tampa, Lynn and Montevallo.
>> When? Tampa vs. Lynn Friday at 4 p.m. Winner plays at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
>> Our pick: The old adage of “you can’t beat a team three times in a season” wasn’t true for Nova Southeastern in last year’s men’s basketball season, so we’ll assume it won’t hold true for Tampa men’s soccer this year. The Spartans are playing like they have something to prove, and they’ll prove it again and again against Lynn and West Florida.