WINGATE, N.C. – The University of Tampa men's soccer team traveled to take on the No.1 ranked and host Wingate University Bulldogs in the NCAA Elite Eight match. The Spartans fell by the slimmest of margins, 1-0, to the Bulldogs as Tampa's season comes to an end.
QUOTING HEAD COACH ADRIAN BUSH:
"I'm extremely proud of these guys as young men. This team, staff and trainers gave each other their best all year. As tough as this is right now, we have so much to reflect on and hold our head up high for. This is one fantastic senior class and our team is a reflection of them as leaders. It's been an honor to coach them the last four years."
HOW IT HAPPENED:
1st Half | The home side largely dominated the first ten minutes as they saw more of the ball and had the better chances. Five minutes into the game, UT keeper Jake Richards was called into action as he made a great save off a strong shot from the top of the box. Jon Tiggs was key on the ensuing corner as he cleared the ball from the goal line to keep the Bulldogs off the scoreboard. Despite their best efforts, Tampa was not able to get the final pass on target to really create any danger for the Bulldogs defense. The Spartans best chance came in the 31st minute as Bay Downing took a powerful shot from near the top of the box but it went high over the bar. UT was able to finish the half on a strong note offensively and a solid back four along with Richards made sure that Wingate would be shut out as the two sides went into the break deadlocked at 0-0.
2nd Half | Tampa came out flying to start the second half as Lewis Sugden shot straight at the keeper to start the half. Shortly after, Wingate would take a try of their own as a shot with tons of power went high over the UT goal. Just over 10 minutes into the half, Richards was called into action as he made an incredible save on a shot to the near post to keep the game tied at 0-0. However, there was only so much the defense could do as the Bulldogs broke through in the 66th minute. A laser shot from Jon Ander gave Wingate the lead as he took advantage of too much space given by the defense to send the ball into the back of the net as Richards was unable to do much on it. The Spartans picked up the intensity after going down a goal but were unable to threaten the Bulldogs. In the 78th minute, Richards cut down a WU attack as he came out of his box and tackled the forward but was given a yellow card on the play. Three minutes later, Richards was again in the spotlight as he stopped a shot from close distance to keep the game within reach for UT. The Bulldogs were then able to play out the final minutes of the game and end the season for Tampa in the Elite Eight.
INSIDE THE STATS:
• Wingate outshot Tampa 17-7 overall. UT was held to just two shots in the second half.
• Richards kept his team in the game as he recorded six saves. The freshman finished the year with 51 saves and 16 goals conceded.
• The two teams combined for 22 fouls as the Spartans were whistled for 12 and the Bulldogs for 10.
BEYOND THE BOXSCORE:
• The Spartans fall to 30-20-1 in NCAA postseason contests.
• This was the first time since 2012 that UT had made the NCAA tournament.
• The last time that the team made it this far in the postseason was in 2009 when they also fell 1-0 in the quarterfinals.
With the 2016 campaign complete, the Spartans will now look to build on their success from this campaign and learn from the defeats to prepare for next season. UT will have its hands full as they will lose four players who played key roles to graduation.
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