Tampa, Whipple Ready to Move On
The chirping and barking started soon after the Florida Southern players arrived on the field last Friday night. We were given an inkling of how heated this game was going to be, and the inaugural FSC-Tampa tilt didn't disappoint, immediately creating a legit rivalry.
Tampa head coach Rory Whipple, who coached Florida Southern just two years prior, heard all the noise and, honestly, didn't appreciate it. However, Whipple's been around the block a couple of times and knew it was coming.
"That's why I scheduled that game first," Whipple said. "I just wanted to get it over with."
Now that this awkward match-up is over, and with the Spartans sporting a 1-0 record after stunning the Mocs, 7-4, the program can start focusing on more long-term goals. Don't get Whipple wrong: he was ecstatic that 2,200 fans showed up on Friday night. Still, it's just one game. There's also the danger that a win out of the gate could potentially balloon the Spartans' heads heading into the next game against Wingate on Friday night.
"No, that's not going to happen," assured Whipple. "It's not going to happen because we haven't done anything, really. We've won one game, and it's a long season. Just my style of coaching, I treat all of my opponents equally and I prepare them the same way. I think the kids will respect that and do the same."
Helping to keep the players' head on straight will be a surprisingly savvy group of team leaders.
Greg Khanzadian is a post-grad student who helped Roanoke make it to the D-III semifinals last year as a FOGO who has filled the leadership void amidst a roster of 23 transfers and 19 freshmen. Junior poles Eric Dance and Adam Dickson, who both transferred from Salisbury, have also stepped to the fore. Suffolk CC product Greg Griffo, a middie, is another player will be tasked with guiding this young team.
"I had some real natural leaders who came in, and that has helped a lot," Whipple said.
Tampa is long on experience for a first-year program, but it won't be benefitting from any external apathy from now on. The win over Florida Southern was a signal to the rest of the mid-range teams on the Spartans' schedule that this is not a rookie program to be taken lightly.
And there won't be much more trash talk before UT games. Opponents now know they need to be strictly business. Will that hurt Tampa?
Who knows? Whipple seems to be one step ahead of the pack at this point.