March 11, 2016
After a bad loss to a Limestone team that is dominating DII, Tampa has rebounded well. (Stacey Wylie)
After a bad loss to a Limestone team that is dominating DII, Tampa has rebounded well. (Stacey Wylie)

MD2 Notes: Tampa Back On Track After Loss

by Shane Mettlen | | Twitter

Facing one of the nation's toughest schedules in the first few weeks of the season, Tampa has made it through so far with just one blemish and has risen all the way to No. 3 in the most recent Nike/LM Division II Top 15 poll.

For the Spartans, it's been a mixture of quality offense and defense that's helped them pick up a pair of signature wins against highly ranked Adelphi and Lake Erie squads already this season.

Of course that one loss, a 25-7 thrashing at the hands of defending national champion Limestone, has stuck in the Spartans craw just a bit. The top-ranked Saints have been an untouchable juggernaut so far, scoring at least 16 goals in all seven games so far, so Tampa is hardly alone in taking it on the chin. But that doesn't mean the Spartans don't want to see Limestone again, preferably after a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

"We are really excited about this year's team, but obviously disappointed in our play against Limestone," Spartans coach Rory Whipple said. "Hopefully we will another opportunity to play them. We just need good goalie play and more face off wins. This team has great work ethic and will improve all season. We have great leadership with the captains, Connor Whipple, Marty Heyn, Riley Piper and Matt Bilak."

Offensively, the Spartans have been on fire other than the Limestone game. They are averaging 13.2 goals per game and shooting 34.5 percent. Connor Whipple, a junior attackman, has been outstanding with 17 goals and 14 assists already to lead Tampa in points. Freshman Andrew Kew has been on the receiving end of more than a few of those assists, racking up 25 goals in his first six college games.

Perhaps most impressive is how Kew has played against tough competition.

"On attack Conor has been solid with 31 points and also the freshman Andrew Kew from the Hill Academy with his 25 goals has been huge," Rory Whipple said. "He had a big game against Adelphi with eight goals and had four against Lake Erie. At midfield, Jake Schmidt with 10 goals and five assists has been impressive and he had three goals and two assists versus Lake Erie. Also speedy Jud Huxtable and Matt Bilak have been important in the midfield."

The situation in goal has been a puzzle coach Whipple has had to figure out with three players -- A.J. Arnold, T.J. Greenhill and Bryan Karn -- all coming in challenging for the job. So far each has started at least one game, but it appears Arnold may have begun to separate himself, playing in all six games while saving 57.6 percent of his shots and picking up a pair of wins.

"We have played the three different goalies this year, but A.J. Arnold has come up on top," Whipple said. "He had 15 saves against Lake Erie, which was big."

The Spartans will try to stay on track this weekend when they play host to a Colorado Mesa team led by Steve Brandenburg, who is third in the nation with 4.5 goals per game.

BASKING IN SUNSHINE: Right now Tampa looks like the class of the Sunshine State Conference once again, but it's shaping up to be an interesting league race with teams such as Florida Tech and Lynn also off to great starts.

In fact, every team in the conference has done well so far this season. The league has an overall record of 26-7. Behind Tampa, Rollins came in at No. 13 and Lynn moved into the Top 15 this week following a loss to Limestone and a 19-6 win versus Emmanuel and Florida Tech made the list of teams considered.

DISHING FOR DOWLING: The Dowling Golden Lions are off to a 4-0 start that includes solid wins against Pace and Post heading into an important Saturday matchup with NYIT. A big reason for Dowling's early success has been senior attackman Brian White, who is averaging five assists per game.

With 20 assists to go along with 10 goals, White has done a little bit of everything for the Lions, who have scored at least 12 goals in each game so far.

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