Florida Tech's top scorer has just three fewer goals than the entire University of Tampa soccer team. That doesn't bother UT goalkeeper Justin Throneburg. "He still has to score against us," said Throneburg, a junior out of Gaither High who is ranked first in the South and sixth in the nation among Division II schools with a 0.76 goals-against average.
Tonight's meeting of the Sunshine State Conference rivals pits one of the nation's most potent offenses against a particularly stingy defense.
"I could be the best goalkeeper around, but if I didn't have a defense in front of me, it wouldn't matter," Throneburg said. "The goals-against average reflects the defense as a whole, not just me."
Florida Tech has averaged 5.13 goals per game and has outscored its opponents 77-13 in 15 matches. Tampa has a 25-13 scoring advantage, but has dominated its opponents with its defensive play.
The Panthers are 12-3 overall, 3-0 in the Sunshine State Conference, and tied for sixth in the latest Division II soccer poll. The Spartans are 10-2-1, 4-0, and tied for 10th. The winner of tonight's match gains the inside track for the SSC title and its automatic NCAA tournament berth.
Against common opponents, UT is 6-1-1 and the Panthers are 7-1.
Throneburg not only will have to contend with Chris Payne, the top scorer in Division II with 22 goals and 37 assists, but also Edward Enders (15 goals, 11 assists, sixth in the country) and Robin Chan (five goals, 17 assists, tied for 19th).
Adrian Bush, a freshman from Hillsborough High, is Tampa's leading scorer with 10 goals and two assists.
"I played with Eddie Enders over the summer," Throneburg said. "I know a lot of his moves." And he credits his summer play with improving his game.
Yet Throneburg acknowledges the pressure of his position. "Stress plays a part," he said. "A field player can make a mistake and it's not going to hurt us, whereas I make a mistake and I let up a goal."
UT coach Tom Fitzgerald said Bush has recovered from a sore back that kept him out of the starting lineup last Saturday. Midfielder Mac Wilson, who suffered a broken nose last week, won't start tonight but will play.
"I think it's important that we defend well, but I also think it's important that we attack well," Fitzgerald said. "I just don't think some teams have attacked well against them. They're going to have to play defense."