WINGATE, N.C. – The University of Tampa men's soccer team traveled to the campus of Wingate University to take on the Palm Beach Atlantic Sailfish for the third time this season, with this matchup coming in the NCAA South Region Championship match. The game ended in a 3-2 victory for the Spartans as they end the season for PBA and advance to the Elite Eight on Sunday against the winner of the Southeast Region Championship between Wingate and Pfeiffer.
INSIDE THE MATCHUP:
Final: Tampa 3, Palm Beach Atlantic 2
Records: Tampa Spartans (13-4-3), Palm Beach Atlantic Sailfish (13-5-1)
Location: Pride Park | Wingate, N.C.
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QUOTING COACH BUSH
"I'm so happy for the players, it's their regional championship. PBA is a first class program and well coached. Our focus now goes to Wingate and an opportunity to get to the NCAA Final Four."
HOW IT HAPPENED:
1st Half | Both sides went back and forth in the first 10 minutes of the match as they looked to get their legs under them and find a rhythm offensively. The Sailfish had the better chances and saw more of the ball but the back four of the Spartans was up to the task and stopped the attacks before any real danger was present. UT keeper Jake Richards was tested often in the first half but was also up to the challenge and held Palm Beach Atlantic scoreless. With five minutes to go in the half, Lewis Sugden sent a perfect cross into the box off a free kick and Curtis Kirby met the ball unmarked and headed it into the back of the net to give Tampa the 1-0 lead. The advantage was short lived however as two minutes later, PBA was awarded a penalty kick. Lucas Kuscevic stepped up to the spot and buried it to the bottom left corner as Richards went the opposite direction.
2nd Half | PBA started out the second half with more confidence after notching the tying goal late in the first half. Five minutes in, the Sailfish had a great chance as Coutinho had a shot from the center of the box that went straight at Richards who made the save and then got the loose ball back to prevent the second chance. The Spartans took a 2-1 lead in the 53rd minute as Troy Tucker found Fredinho Mompremier with a pass across the top of the box and Mompremier took advantage of open space to run in and take a shot across the goal and past the keeper to give his side the advantage. After going down on the scoreboard, PBA kicked it up a notch as they chased the tying goal. Tampa's defense was up to the challenge and kept the threat at a minimum while the offense tried to find a third goal using their speed on the wings to counterattack. In the 72nd minute, the Spartans were able to go against the run of play as Bay Downing drove into the box and drew the defense and turned around to find Sugden all alone across the box. A perfectly placed pass by Downing allowed Sugden to easily convert the chance and give UT a 3-1 lead. The Sailfish put the pressure on UT in the final 10 minutes to go and forced them to defend with everything they had. With just under five to go, there was a scramble in the box and PBA somehow found the back of the net to make it 3-2. The Spartans were forced to drop almost all of their players into their box but were able to run out the clock and knock out the second-seeded Sailfish to advance to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.
INSIDE THE STATS:
• UT has outscored PBA 5-2 in their last two matches
• Tampa had 10 shots (6 being on goal) in the second half after being held to three (two on goal) in the first half as they took advantage and caught the Sailfish defense off-guard on a couple of occasions.
• Goalkeeper Richards finished the game with five saves. He has now recorded 46 saves this season.
BEYOND THE BOXSCORE:
• The Spartans improve to 30-19-1 in NCAA postseason contests.
• Tampa will be making its first appearance in the quarterfinals since 2009.
• UT has now knocked out top-seeded Lynn and second-seed PBA in back to back games in the team's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2012.
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