By MIKE READLING
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 11, 2001
TAMPA -- You don't get ranked No. 1 in the nation based upon one good season. There has to be a consistency few teams will ever achieve and respect earned over a long period of time.
That's why when Student Sports magazine and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America released their national rankings Tuesday, Jesuit coach Bob Bauman was that much more satisfied. His Tigers showed up at No. 1 in both polls, providing a crowning moment for what has turned into one of the top programs in the nation.
Jesuit, which finished 30-2 and won the Class 2A state title, is the first county school to win a mythical national soccer championship. After a 3-1 loss in the state final last season -- a loss Bauman said still haunts him -- the Tigers graduated or lost through transfer players who combined for more than 100 goals.
The remaining group, which included 12 seniors, responded with wins over state champions from two states, wins in two of three games against Class 4A power Gaither and the school's fourth state title in five years.
"It feels great. What a tremendous tribute to this team," Bauman said. "To come off a tough loss last year where they had the No. 1 position sitting in front of them for the taking and then to lose 100 goals and still go 30-2, that's phenomenal.
"After last year, I thought for us to have another opportunity like that may not be likely for a while. But I think it made us more focused. This team has shown that they're worthy of the ranking and being recognized at the national level."
The Tigers were led by captains Eric Grzybowski and Justin Trowbridge along with seniors John Kluft, Tom Szvetitz, Evan Doyle, Ryan Feely, Anthony Esposito, Justin Versaggi, Ron Guevara, Brian Simon, Dylan Hagerty and Stash Graham. Graham was a late-season addition, and Hagerty scored six post-season goals after scoring two during the regular season.
"This feels like the longest season we've ever had," Bauman said. "To me, it's just such a great accomplishment for this group of players.
"We had no standout stars, no dealing with pacifying any egos. They just showed up to play."
Gaither finished the season ranked No. 10 in the Student Sports poll.