A contingent of University of Tampa soccer players helped Florida capture the U.S. Soccer Federation South Region amateur tournament championship on June 11-13 at Raleigh, N.C.
Six of UT's returning players and one recent graduate form the nucleus of the 18-member Florida team, which defeated Georgia 4-1 in the regional tournament final. No other college comes close to UT in representation on the state team. Florida advances to the four-team national tournament, also called the George Donnelly Cup, at Indianapolis next Saturday and Sunday.
Adrian Bush, a UT junior-to-be from Hillsborough High, led the Florida team with five goals. Bush, a 1991 Division II All-American at UT, returned in top form after nearly a year's layoff because of injuries.
"That was the first time I played since the spring, when I hurt my knee the second time," said Bush. "I felt great. I'm back playing ball. I'm ready to go again."
Bush scored 22 goals as a sophomore and added 12 assists for a school-record 56 points. But he tore an anterior cruciate ligament and the medial miniscus last summer, forcing him to redshirt in the fall when the Spartans finished second in the nation.
Bush tried to come back in April, but retore the medial miniscus and had surgery again.
As the high goal-scorer at the regional tournament, Bush should make the cut for the South Region Team, which was selected from all eight teams competing at Raleigh and which will play in the USSF National Select Tournament in Fort Lauderdale in November.
"Since we won the regional, we should have several guys make that team," said George Fotopoulos, a recent UT graduate who scored three goals at Raleigh. "The great part about the November tournament is it gives (U.S. National Team coach) Bora (Milutinovic) a chance to see players he might never see in other situations."
If Milutinovic balks, the U.S. National "B" Team could call. "The coaches were in Raleigh looking for players for the "B' team and they'll be back in Indianapolis," Fotopoulos said. "These tournaments bring out the top amateur and college players in the country. It's a high level of soccer."
Joining Bush and Fotopoulos on Florida's regional championship team are UT forward Juan Panesso, who scored the opening goal against Georgia; midfielders Sergio Jaramillo, Mike Heald and Anthony Fotopoulos; and goalkeeper David Winner, who played the second half against Georgia and did not allow a goal.
Bush, Jaramillo and Winner have also been tapped to play on the South team at the U.S. Olympic Festival in July at San Antonio, Texas. UT coach Tom Fitzgerald will coach the South team.
Kelley and Abarbanel named athletes of the year: Rodd Kelley and Shannon Abarbanel, shortstops on UT's baseball and softball teams this spring, were named the school's athletes of the year and are now eligible to be voted SSC athletes of the year.
Kelley, SSC baseball player of the year and a first-team All-American from Brandon, edged SSC basketball player of the year and second-team All-American DeCarlo Deveaux, SSC cross country champion Gunnar Svendsen and George Fotopoulos, who was selected the national on-field soccer player of the year.
Abarbanel, who lives in Tampa, led the softball team to a record 28 victories and set several individual records while earning SSC co-player of the year honors. She beat out volleyball second-team All-American Katia Serkovic, Linda Cassella of cross country and basketball's Crystal Ashley.
Not just on the field: During a tremendous season in which the athletic program reached new heights on the fields of play, the student-athletes also excelled in the classroom.
A total of 28 UT student-athletes were named to the Sunshine State Conference Commissioner's Honor Roll, more than any other SSC school. Leading the way were Martin Nebrelius (soccer and tennis) and Cassella (tennis and cross country), who were named to All-Academic teams in two different sports.
Spartan Baseball Day: Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman proclaimed last Wednesday, June 16, as "The University of Tampa Spartan Baseball Day" in the city, honoring UT's second consecutive Division II national championship. UT baseball coach Lelo Prado, assistant coach Marty Reed and school president David J. Ruffer accepted the proclamation at the mayor's office.