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Sandoval chooses UT for soccer

The Crystal River standout cites the school's prominence, training, facilities and proximity in making his decision.

By CAREY FREEMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 11, 2000


CRYSTAL RIVER -- There are times when an athlete feels as if he or she is settling for something less when choosing to compete at the NCAA's Division II level.

And then there are times when the opportunity is greeted as a dream come true.

For Crystal River soccer standout Andres Sandoval it's a dream come true, because his choice -- the University of Tampa -- is anything but an average soccer program.

"I'm very, very happy," said Sandoval, who turned down offers from several schools, including some Division I programs. "Even though a school is Division I, that doesn't always mean they are a competitive program or that they're always good.

"As soon as I talked to coach (Kevin) Fulk about their training methods and saw their facilities, I realized that, Division II or not, it was definitely nice. The facilities and the level of play of the guys on the team blew my mind."

Although Sandoval was not the leading scorer on his team, his production over four years on the varsity -- averaging more than 16 goals per season, including 19 this year -- along with his natural talent were enough to catch the eye of Fulk and other coaches.

Fulk was unable to comment directly on Sandoval, who faxed his letter of intent to Fulk on Wednesday, but he was enthusiastic about his incoming class and about the two-time national champion Spartans chances of rebounding from a disappointing 6-8-2 campaign.

"Next year we should have a very strong team," said Fulk, who is entering his fifth year and guided the Spartans to the Division II quarterfinals in his first two seasons. "We really came together this spring. We played a couple MLS teams (Mutiny, Columbus Crew, New England Revolution) and the under-17 national team, and to play those quality games was a great experience for the kids.

"Plus, we have 8 to 10 freshmen coming in and that's the first time I've ever had that. A lot of them are Florida kids. Three or four are from from the Tampa area and we're looking forward to having a good year."

The desire to stay close to friends and family was a major factor in Sandoval's signing, as was his academic performance in the mind of Fulk.

"I'm not only a momma's boy, I'm a daddy's boy too," Sandoval said. "(UT) is only an hour and a half from Crystal River, and that way I can actually get some of my old teammates and old coaches to come see some of my games.

"I'm very close to my parents. They have always been my biggest supporters. My dad has always been my coach growing up, and it will be like still having him as a coach. I'm sure coach Fulk is a great coach, but my father will never be surpassed as my main influence."

Sandoval's 4.1 weighted grade-point average along with a high SAT score made the decision an easy one for Fulk.

"That's probably the first thing coaches do now, because the scholarship numbers don't add up," Fulk said. "Fewer than 1 percent boys and 2 percent girls win scholarships, so that's one of the most important things.

"I see a kid has a 3.0 or 4.0 GPA and a high SAT and, bam!, that's $6,000 (UT's Presidential Scholarship). Add in the Florida residential ($2,400) and right there you have $8,400. To me, it's a dream."

Besides qualifying for UT's Presidential Scholarship, Sandoval also qualified for the Florida Merit Scholarship, all but sealing the deal with the Spartans.

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