Ingo Fochler left Stuttgart, Germany, and arrived at the University of Tampa in the summer of 2001. Four months later he was celebrating a national championship as a member of the Spartans' soccer team.
Fochler led the Sunshine State Conference in assists (10) that season and was a significant factor in the team's 19-0-2 record.
Then coach Keith Fulk left Tampa in December 2001 to take a Division I position at West Virginia. Since then, Fochler said, "it's been a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs."
Now under his third coach, and after two mediocre seasons, he has a unique perspective on his experiences.
"I got the best and the worst you can get," Fochler said. "I knew it would be hard coming back to defend after wining the title because we lost our coach and most of our defense, but I wasn't used to losing; I'd always been on winning teams. When you play away games after winning a national championship and you lose and everybody is chanting "overrated,' it hurts. Especially when you're on the field and you're a captain"
Tampa won just five games in 2002 and finished fourth in the SSC under Fulk's replacement, Dawson Driscoll. Last year UT was fifth as Driscoll resigned with two games left.
When former coach Tom Fitzgerald, who led Tampa to the Division II national championship in 1994 and UCLA to the Division I title in 2002, announced he was coming back to coach, Fochler and the program found new life.
Eight games into his return, Tampa's record is even at 4-4, 2-2 in the SSC. Fitzgerald said the Spartans are about where he thought they would be and he looks to Fochler, one of only two players ( Robby Folbrycht the other) who remain from the 2001 championship team, to lift the young team (18 underclassmen) to the next level.
"I knew we'd have trouble scoring goals and I'd say as far as the learning curve, we're about where I expected us to be," Fitzgerald said. "Obviously Ingo is one of the more experienced players and that experience is invaluable to us because he can help with adjustments on the field and does not get involved with distractions."
Fochler, who played on club teams in Germany since he was 17, likes Fitzgerald's coaching style. He says Fitzgerald relies on positive reinforcement.
Looking back on his collegiate career, Fochler said he wouldn't change a thing and never considered giving up, even through the tough times.
"I'd rather win the championship once and have two bad years than to have come in second all three seasons," he said. "Some teams mesh with their coaches and sometimes they don't. It's not always the player's fault and not always the coach's fault.
"... I loved soccer too much to quit; it's like religion in my country. Plus, as a captain, I felt responsible and never thought about leaving the ship. I always wanted to pull it around. Now we have good freshmen and we're getting better every day so we'll see how the story ends."
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Outside hitter Kayla Mora was recognized as SSC volleyball player of the week after posting her third and fourth double-digit kills games. Mora recorded 14 in a win over Saint Leo and tacked on 17 digs, four aces and three blocks. She also notched 10 kills and 10 digs in a loss to No. 12 North Florida.
Senior Dee Dee Haefling was named top cross-country runner, helping the Spartans to a first-place finish among Division II teams at the flrunners.com Invitational on Sept. 24. Haefling finished second overall with a season-best 5K time of 18:49.88.