Sometimes quality wins out over quantity. That's precisely how the University of Tampa soccer team seized a 1-0 victory over Sunshine State Conference rival Florida Tech at Pepin/Rood Stadium Friday night.
The statistic of the night: The Panthers outshot Tampa 18-1, however UT's lone shot was the only one to find the back of the net.
Six minutes into the second half, the Spartans caught FIT too far forward and UT defender Joe Lhota dribbled up the left side on the counterattack, then sent a crossing pass to the middle. FIT defender Gary Eyles had gotten back by then and appeared to be in position to clear the ball, but it skipped by him to Tampa's Jorgen Adolfsson, who beat FIT goalkeeper John Loftis with a low kick from eight yards out.
"I was happy to get the ball by my feet and I just stuck it in," said Adolfsson, a defender who scored just his second goal of the season. "He (Loftis) was still on the line. I had a wide angle to put it in."
FIT's Edward Enders hit the side of a wide-open UT net in the first half and Chris Payne, the top scorer in Division II, hit the post in the second half.
The game ended in controversy when FIT's Robin Chan blasted a shot into the Tampa net just as referee Scott Hopkins whistled the end of the game. Hopkins waived off the goal, saying time had expired before Chan hit the shot, but FIT coach Rick Stottler was livid.
"He (Hopkins) just blew it," Stottler said. "He let them (Tampa) kick the ball away too many times after they scored. They should get a yellow card for that, but he just let them waste the clock.
"Of course, we should have put it away, so that's no excuse. Their goalkeeper did a good job."
FIT applied constant pressure and dominated play. But the UT defense was solid. Goalkeeper Justin Throneburg made eight saves.
"The FIT game is always like this," said Throneburg, a junior who attended Tampa's Gaither High. "They're so offensive, they're susceptible to the counterattack. I didn't expect to shut them out, though.
Throneburg added, "There was no way for me or anybody on the defense to play bad. We all had to play great to win and we did."
Tampa improved to 11-2-1. More importantly, the Spartans are now 5-0 in the SSC with one conference game remaining at Saint Leo Thursday. In beating FIT (12-4, 3-1), Tampa clinched at least a share of the SSC title. The conference winner also gains an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
"They were obviously the most potent offensive team we've seen," said UT coach Tom Fitzgerald. "But we knew if we marked up tight and counterattacked, we could score."
FIT came into the game with one of the most potent offenses in the nation, having outscored its opponents 77-13.
"This win means a lot," said Adolfsson, a senior from Vaxjo, Sweden. "This is the game we've been looking forward to all season. It shows that we were at the top of our conditioning and our way of playing. Our work paid off. This is a boost to our confidence."
The Spartans should improve on their No. 10 ranking when the Division II poll is released Tuesday. FIT was ranked sixth before losing to Tampa and could meet Tampa in the tournament.
The Spartans play at the University of Florida Tuesday in the Mayor's Cup and conclude the regular season Sunday at home against the University of South Carolina-Spartanburg.
Volleyball: The UT volleyball team bounced back from last Thursday's loss to SSC rival Florida Southern with a 15-5, 15-10, 15-7 win over Division I Liberty University Saturday afternoon.
But the Southern match was still on the minds of most of the UT players and their coach.
The Moccasins defeated the Spartans 15-12, 6-15, 15-6, 15-12. Both of UT's conference losses have been to Florida Southern.
"We have a great team," said Tampa's Kim Dix, a junior from Armwood High. "I don't know where our heads were. We went from having an attitude that we could beat them (during the first two games) to an attitude that we had to hold on."
Dix played Thursday and Saturday with a heavily bandaged leg. She pulled her groin earlier in the week, but pronounced herself 80 percent healthy and improving.
"We really thought we could do it," said Tampa's Luanne Baldwin (Chamberlain), who had a team-high 21 kills Thursday. "I don't know if we were afraid to win or what. We just broke down. But we played well in the first two games. We proved to ourselves we could do it. I hope we get another shot at them."
The Spartans are at Saint Leo Tuesday, then travel to the USAFA Premier tournament in Colorado Springs this weekend.
"We know we're on the bubble and can't lose another match to an unranked team if we have any hopes of earning a berth in the NCAA tournament," said coach Chris Catanach. "The Southern loss won't hurt us much because they're so highly ranked."
The fifth-ranked Moccasins improved to 29-0 overall, 8-0 in conference play and all but wrapped up the SSC title with Thursday's win. Tampa is 22-7, 6-2 and ranked 18th, but could fall out of the poll this week.
"We had a really bad practice after the Southern match," Catanach said Saturday. "I'm glad to see we came out strong today. But we're still off a bit. We need to hit it at the Premier."
Men's basketball: Look for men's basketball coach Richard Schmidt to finally announce his assistant coaches this week. Schmidt lost his full-time assistant, Don Bostic, as part of a restructuring plan of the UT athletic department in mid-September.
He had held out hope the school's board of trustees would reinstate Bostic at its regular quarterly meeting last week, but the board sided with the school administration.
The Spartans are ranked No. 2 in the nation in two preseason polls and fifth in another. At the end of the 1989-90 regular season they were the top-ranked team in the country.
Schmidt has worked the first two weeks of practices without any assistants. He said Friday that he would probably announce two part-time assistants this week, but didn't name anyone then.
One former Schmidt assistant, Tibor Kovacs, was in Schmidt's office Friday. Kovacs is currently an assistant at Sunshine State Conference rival Saint Leo. Other possible choices are former UT players Johnny Jones, Doug Olson and Terry Rupp, though none of them has any coaching experience.