BOCA RATON, Fla. – The Saint Leo University men’s soccer team had to put the wraps on the 2008 season as they were defeated 4-1 by the 10th-ranked University of Tampa Spartans in the Sunshine State Conference Tournament semifinal round on Friday afternoon.  The Lions close out the year 10-7-1 while Tampa, who is now 15-2-1 will move on to the championship round on Sunday.

The game got off to a fast start with both teams having early chances.  The Lions getting the best of the opportunities in the eighth minute as Bruce Cutler launched a laser toward the right post that UT keeper Ryan Thompson had to make a beautiful save on to keep the match scoreless.

Tampa would begin to push the ball forward and finally struck pay dirt in the 21st minute as the Spartans speedy goal-scorer Paschal Milien found himself 1-on-1 with Lions’ keeper Griffin Pharr.  Milien, who received the pass in-stride from UT midfielder Mike Bethel, flipped the ball up and over Pharr’s outstretched arms and into the net for the game’s first goal.

After playing the remainder of the first-half scoreless, Tampa would strike again in the 50th minute when Ryan Maxwell received a beauty of a pass between two Saint Leo defenders.  He would then shoot the ball across the goal, past a diving Pharr and just inside the far post, giving UT a 2-0 advantage.

The Lions’ persistent attack finally paid off in the 71st minute as Jonathan Glenn was brought down in the box when he tried to take on two Spartan defenders.  He had managed to get past one, but the other simply took Glenn off his feet for the obvious foul.  The referee, delayed in the call, finally whistled the foul and awarded the Lions penalty opportunity.  Bruce Cutler squared up the chance and blasted it into the right-side of the goal to bring the margin back to a lone goal.

Unfortunately, that was as far as Saint Leo would get.  

The Lions, trying to push for the equalizer in the waning minutes, left Pharr exposed, where two Spartans would get in behind the SLU defense and score twice to put the match at it final margin.

Milien and Lister Warren both received long passes from their defenders and converted them into goals.  The Milien one not coming easy as Pharr made a tremendous save on his original shot, but the deflection was right back to his foot, where he struck true on his second try.

The Lions and Spartans split the season’s two matches, with the Lions getting the 3-1 win in September and the Spartans getting a measure of revenge in the November rematch.

The Lions also say farewell to four seniors who all were on the pitch when the final whistle sounded.  Brandon Whitsett, Eusebio Montoya, Juan Chavez and Art Gendreau all played an important role in the successes of the 2008 season and will certainly be missed in the Green & Gold as the Lions now look toward 2009.