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Eckerd's upset resembles fairy tale

By JOE SMITH
Published October 14, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - Eckerd College freshman Luke Sheekey called it "one of the best experiences in my life.

"It was like a dream."

In many ways, the Eckerd soccer team's improbable upset over No. 1 Lynn University last Wednesday, a signature victory for the Division II program, followed fairy-tale form.

There were the underdog Tritons, playing sub-.500 ball, going up against the undefeated conference power.

There were the charismatic characters such as Sheekey, a feisty forward from London. One of nine Englishmen on the roster, he helped captivated the cozy campus 1,749 students, inviting friends to the "pitch" (field) for some "futbol" (soccer).

Indeed, Eckerd fancies its futbol.

There were the couple hundred fans, who quickly spilled over the teal-colored bleachers at North Soccer Field, counting down the final seconds of Eckerd's 2-1 win, "10! 9! 8! 7!..."

Fans flooded the artificial surface, forming a mosh pit at midfield.

"I hugged so many people, I can't even remember," sophomore defender John Fletcher said. "It was amazing."

Fletcher said he had felt the "magic" since the day before, when he and coach Jeremy Wisdo performed their ritual, post-practice drill of trying to hit the crossbar from 30 yards out.

Wisdo told Fletcher, "If I hit this one, we'll win tomorrow."

Ting!

Quipped Wisdo: "I have that kind of power."

The Tritons powered themselves over Lynn and then-No. 18 Rollins College (3-2 in double overtime) in a four-day stretch.

That lifted Eckerd to No. 24 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll, its first ranking since 1995, when the Tritons were No. 22.

Hours after finding out that feat four days ago, the Tritons (5-6-1, 2-4-0) lost a heart-breaking home match to Barry University, 3-2 in double overtime. The hundred-plus stood and gave their team a standing ovation. The players returned the favor.

The Tritons are quickly becoming the team that nobody wants to play in the Sunshine State Conference tournament, set for Oct. 24-29.

"They're fantastic," said Barry coach Steve McCrath, in his ninth season with the Buccaneers. "This is the strongest unit they've had in quite a long time."

Joe Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8129 or at joesmith@sptimes.com.