Tampa, Fla. - The eighth-ranked University of Tampa women's soccer team battled from a 2-0 deficit to claim a 4-3 victory in a double overtime thriller over #18 Saint Leo in the 2006 Sunshine State Conference tournament championship. The Spartans improve to 15-2-1 on the season as they stretched their home unbeaten streak to 32 consecutive matches.
Shelby Kuni registered the game-winning goal 21-seconds into the second overtime period from Samantha Robinson and Jocelyn Charette as the Spartans become the first SSC team since Barry in 2003 to win both the regular season and tournament crowns.
Saint Leo gained the early momentum as they scored two goals in the first 12-minutes to take the early 2-0 lead. Tampa's Kara Rasmussen put the Spartans on the board at 20:31 on a goal from Courtney Evans and Alison Penland. The Spartans then evened the score at 2-2 on a Shelby Kuni penalty kick at 37:46 that found the right side of the net just past Saint Leo goalkeeper Lauren Hudson.
Taking a 2-2 tie into the half, Robinson gave Tampa a 3-2 lead five-minutes into the second half on an unassisted goal. The Spartans carried the one-goal advantage for 17-minutes before Saint Leo's Bridget Godwin scored to send the game to overtime.
The first overtime went scoreless as both teams recorded two shots apiece, sending the match to a second overtime. Similar to the regular season matchup between to two teams, Tampa registered the game-winning goal in the second overtime period. This time is was leading scorer Kuni finding the net 21-seconds into play.
This marks the second time in program history that Tampa has claimed the SSC tournament championship as the Spartans are the first in league history to claim back-to-back titles as they also won in 2004. The 2005 SSC tournament was cancelled due to Hurricane Wilma.
Tampa's Samantha Robinson was chosen the tournament's Most Outstanding Player for her goal and assist in the championship. Robinson also recorded a goal in Tampa's semifinal victory over Florida Tech. Fellow Spartans Nicole Murphy, Shelby Kuni, Malana Winskas, Kara Rasmussen and Shannon Aitken were selected to the SSC all-tournament team. Saint Leo's Casie Poyssick, Jessica Lebohner, Hannah Beard, Evelina Viiri and Bridget Godwin also joined the five Spartans on the all-tournament team.
The Spartans now await word on their NCAA fate as they concluded the regular season as the number-one team in the South Region. The 2006 NCAA South Regional is scheduled for the end of next week, with the first game most likely on Thursday or Friday.