SAINT LEO, Fla. - The Saint Leo University men’s soccer team, pushed on by three unanswered goals in the second half, defeated the 25th-ranked University of Tampa Spartans 3-1 in the Sunshine State Conference opener on Tuesday night at University Field.
Saint Leo (4-2, 1-0 SSC), as they have done for a majority of this season, maintained possession for a good part of the opening half, but it was the Spartans who netted the game’s first goal as senior Ryan Maxwell deposited a deflected shot into the goal in the 29th minute. The original attempt, a close-range shot from Tampa’s Pascal Milien, was turned away by Saint Leo sophomore ‘keeper Griffin Pharr, but the rebound was blasted home by Maxwell to put UT ahead.
The Lions, facing a Spartan team who had not surrendered a goal in 2008, finally snapped the scoreless streak 1:11 after the interval as sophomore Jonathan Glenn headed a ball past UT goalkeeper Ryan Thompson. Glenn received a beautiful cross from senior Brandon Whitsett who was midway inside the Tampa half and sent a pinpoint 40-yard ball into the area where Glenn connected with a diving header for the equalizer. That goal ended UT’s scoreless streak at 517 minutes.
Saint Leo wasted no time scoring their second goal, again from the foot of Glenn, as he caught a loose ball in the Tampa box and laced it into the back of the net in the 55th minute to give SLU the 2-1 advantage.
The Lions would play with the one-goal advantage into the final 10 minutes of the contest until senior Eusebio Montoya single-handedly worked past the Tampa (4-1-1, 0-1 SSC) defense and beat Thompson one-on-one to give the Lions a two-goal cushion that they would maintain through the remainder.
The possession battle went in favor of the Lions for the entire match as SLU ended up with a 20-6 advantage in total shots, an 8-1 edge in shots on goal, and a 9-2 advantage in corners. The aggressive game between the two archrivals saw the head referee do a good job of keeping tempers at bay, as only two cautions, one to a member of each team, were issued and fouls fall nearly even, with Tampa earning one more warning than Saint Leo at 9-to-8.
The Lions will take a week to rest, practice and prepare for their next match as they head to St. Augustine, Fla. To face Flagler College in a tilt on Florida’s East Coast. Saint Leo is set to kick off with the Saints next Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.