Tampa Spartan Soccer Team Scores No. 1 NCAA Spot

soccer_guy_cut“What does it take to be number one?”

As rapper Nelly asks, UT men’s soccer answers.

The Spartans were ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II for the weeks of Sept. 1, 8 and 15. They began the season at No. 3, but quickly vaulted to the top when the top two teams lost early-season matches.

They remain undefeated (4-0-1), but a Sept. 19 tie with No. 22 West Florida knocked them back to No. 5 in the Sept. 22 poll.

Head coach Adrian Bush appreciated the honor, but he does not over-emphasize in-season rankings.

“It’s something we try to keep at a low key,” Bush said. “I think it’s an important step for our program. But it doesn’t make or break our season. Our goal is not to be ranked number one during the season. We want to win the regional and national championship.”

Coach Bush didn’t take the top spot lightly. The day the Spartans were first voted No. 1, he held two practices and put everything in perspective.

“I had them up at 6 a.m.,” Bush said. “We wanted to make sure we were the hardest working team that day.”

That hard work has translated to success so far. With the veteran leadership of seniors such as goalie Ryan Thompson and forward Pascal Milien, plus the breakout seasons of sophomores Ryan Griffin and Mike Bethel, Bush believes the Spartans have the tools to remain on top long-term.

Here are some facts about the Spartans’ history of top rankings:
A No. 1 ranking has only happened four times. They won the 1981 national championship, then captured the 1994 title and entered 1995 at the top. Another national title made them No. 1 at the end of the 2001 season.
The last time UT won a national championship in 2001, they opened the season in 25th. They started the next year ranked ninth.

The 2009 team started at its highest rank (No. 3) since 1996, when they began No. 2. They finished that year at No. 5.

The Spartans were ranked 23rd in week six of the 2003 season. They would not be ranked in the top-25 again until the end of 2007, when they reached 15th.

The team has been ranked in the top-25 continuously since week eight in 2008. They jumped to the 14th spot that week.

This season marks the first time the Spartans have been ranked No. 1 for multiple weeks since 1994-95.

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