Nov. 21, 2008

By Amy Farnum Novin
NCAA Staff

Adrian Bush left his mark on the University of Tampa men’s soccer program as a player several years ago, and now he’s using that experience to make an impact with current players as the Spartans’ head coach.

Bush starred for the Spartans on the field from 1990-94, leading Tampa to a national championship in 1994, while earning National Player of the Year honors that season.  He was a two-time All-American and four-time all-region selection, and in his fourth year at the helm of the Spartan program, Bush has his team making a run in the 2008 NCAA Division II Championship.

After posting a combined 28-21-5 record over the last three seasons, and last year guiding the Spartans to their first NCAA appearance since the program won the 2001 national title, Bush has helped his current squad to a 17-3-1 record and a victory over top-ranked Lynn University in the South Region final.

“I remember when I came here as a freshman that there was a lot of talent here,” said junior goalkeeper Ryan Thompson.  “There were kids in my class who loved soccer.  I think that has filtered down to the other classes – they have a passion for the sport, a passion for the game.  The University of Tampa has a great spirit and a winning tradition and it is easy for people to adapt to that environment and have that positive vibe filter down to each and every player on the team.  I see how we have improved every year.”

Thompson says the team’s winning attitude starts with Bush, and that wishes he could have seen him in action during his playing days.

“He has the best school spirit ever,” said Thompson.  “He would die for this school or any of his players.  I’ve never seen him play, but I can just imagine the player he was.  He preaches hard work to us and that it is not going to be easy.  He’s always inspiring us and motivating us – I have a tremendous respect for him.  He has been there and done that, and I’m willing to listen to whatever he says.”

Right now, Bush is hoping the Spartans are listening to his mantra, ‘last game, next game’ after defeating No. 1 Lynn last weekend – a team Tampa had lost big to on two previous occasions this season.

“A lot of teams come off of an emotional win and forget about their next opponent because they are still living in the limelight of the previous result,” said Bush.  “That’s been a big thing for us this year.”

Tampa will be thinking about Tusculum (20-2-1) this week.  The Spartans will travel to Greeneville, Tenn., for the quarterfinal match-up on Nov. 23 at 2 p.m.  It will be the first meeting in series history between the two teams. The Pioneers rank eighth in the nation in scoring (2.81 goals per game), while the Spartans are third in the nation with 3.14 goals per game.  

“This is the opportunity that everyone dreams about as an athlete,” said Bush.  “When you get these opportunities, it’s important to make the most of them because there is no guarantee will be in this situation ever again.  The eight remaining teams are all great teams.  I don’t think at one time this year we ever looked past our next opponent.  That’s important right now for the players.”

The winner of the Tampa-Tusculum contest will be awarded a berth in the NCAA semifinals, which are being held at the University of Tampa’s Pepin Stadium on Dec. 4 and 6 – the Spartans’ home stadium.  The Division II Women’s Soccer Championship will be held at the same venue on Dec. 5 and 7.

“It’s great for the city,” said Bush.  “USF in Division I has had an unbelievable year.  I think the excitement is back in Tampa for college soccer.  The community has been outstanding in the support of the players, but it’s still a long way away.  It seems like just a short time, but we have a long way to go before we get back there.  Even if we do get to play in Tampa, that doesn’t mean you’re a national champion.”
It may be a long road to a national title, but Thompson has faith in his coach and teammates that winning is a real possibility.

“Impossible is a big word used by small-minded people,” said Bush.  “I think our players have that in our minds – nothing is impossible right now.  We can get it done and we know our potential.”