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Eric Dance and the Tampa Spartans Have Sites Set on Championship

Written by Lee Roggenburg on . Posted in .
Note: This article is part of a series.  We took a fall tour to visit with our Florida born impact players at Florida’s NCAA schools.  Our first stop found us at Florida Tech where we spent some time with Andrew Conley and Coach Ryan McAleavey. After that we made our way to Lakeland to visit with Brad Fretti and Dan Krispinsky.  Heading northwest out of Lakeland we headed to the hills of Pasco County and the beautiful campus of Saint Leo University where we chatted with Winter Springs’ Matt Obermeyer.
Coach Rory Whipple – photo credit Todd Montgomery
Just a few miles south we found the incredible Bob Martinez Center at the University of Tampa.  Inside the new state of the art building that appears to be equal parts museum, metropolitan business center, and sports facility we found Coach Whipple and a trio of Florida’s top players. The players included Eric Dance, Cody Prizer, and Joey McMahan.  Eric is a senior who transferred in from Salisbury as a junior for the 2012 season.  He played high school lacrosse at Freedom HS in Tampa and played club lacrosse for the Tampa Fire.  Cody was an outstanding LSM at Lake Highland Prep and Joey was a prolific goal scorer for Bishop Moore Catholic.   Both Prizer and McMahon are freshmen. FLN – Coach, when we set the interview up I asked to sit down with you and some of your Florida born impact players.  What is it about these guys that made you choose them? Coach Whipple – Well Eric, starting off, is a captain and was a captain last year.  He is one of our veteran players.  He is going to anchor the defense and be a real good leader everybody looks up to him and we are really happy to have him as captain of the team. FLN – Eric you transferred in from Salisbury, how did you feel when you heard that Tampa was going to start a program and you would have an opportunity to come back home and play here in Tampa?
Eric Dance – Photo credit Todd Montgomery
Eric – I was really excited when I heard they were going to have a program.  I thought it would be great to come back down and play in front of my family again. I know they missed watching me play and I could help grow the sport around here.  I know all of the other areas of the state are getting lacrosse as a sanctioned sport and I think what the university and Coach is doing here is great for this area. FLN – We thought you had a great season last year, how would you describe your junior (2012) year here at Tampa? Eric – It was a new experience for me. Coming from where I did to here is different. Coming from Salisbury where, obviously, there is a winning tradition to here was there was no tradition so it was nice to kind of start our own. It was difficult at first but now I think we have a winning attitude and we expect to win around here.  Now we have big goals and big dreams FLN – You guys stepped on the field last year for the first time as a team and took on an established program where your coach has some ties and won, how did that affect the rest of the inaugural season? Eric – I think we knew from then on that we were going to be a pretty solid team. Florida Southern was a good club last year; they had a lot of older guys.  When we came out and beat them it was a big step for us and definitely set the tone for the entire season. FLN – Eric, what are your personal goals for this season? Eric – We have been saying all year that we would like to get to the national championship.  I think we’ve got the talent and we’ve got the work ethic. A lot of guys are on board and we share the same goal.
Joey McMahon – Photo courtesy of Hammer Sports Photography
FLN – Cody, how has the transition been for you coming from Lake Highland? Cody – It’s defiantly been a big change but it’s a change that I have liked.  It’s been challenging.  The coaches are all new to me and some of the stuff has taken some time to get used to.  But I really like it. The level of talent is way better and consistent across the board and it has made me better as a player. FLN – Joey how are you doing here at Tampa? You carried a very heavy load at Bishop Moore doing a lot of the scoring and played a pivotal role in the offense.  Like Cody said, there is a lot more talent and a lot of depth here. Are you able to figure out how to fit your game into what is happening here? Joey – Oh yea, I love playing up here with all of these talented guys.  I’m learning something new from the upper classmen every single day. Like Cody said, it’s a challenge and it has challenged me as a player to come here and be surrounded by all of these guys.  But I work every day to fit into this offense and work for a certain spot and work for that championship that Dance is talking about. FLN – A championship is your ultimate goal for the 2013 season but how about along the way?  What games are you most looking forward to on the schedule? Eric – I think Limestone is going to be one of my favorites. We are playing them here this year, for our home opener. Coach Whipple – Our new stadium should be ready for that game too.
Cody Prizer
Eric – Yea and playing against those guys will be great.  We play those guys tough and we are all expecting to beat them. Once we beat those guys we will know exactly what we are working for.  We will know we have a shot at our goal. FLN- How about you Orlando guys, are you looking forward to playing Rollins, the home town team? Cody – I have a couple of buddies on that team and it’s a conference game, so it’s kind of a home town rivalry game being from Winter Park. FLN – How about you Joey, do you have any Bishop Moore guys on your schedule? Joey – No, not any Bishop Moore guys.  I think I’m the only one playing in college. But there are plenty of Orlando guys playing on teams like Catawba and Rollins that I’d be happy to smack around and talk a little smack to, so those would be some great games to win. FLN – What are you guys doing around Tampa when you’re not practicing or studying? Eric – Probably going to the pool. Cody – I’ve been up to the cable park a couple of times to do some wakeboarding. Joey – We can go to the beach or the pool and just relax. FLN – Coach what are your thoughts on the new Sunshine State Conference? Do you think we will see continued growth for D2 lacrosse here in Florida? Coach Whipple – Certainly, with Lynn coming that will give us six teams as a conference.  Once Lynn goes I think Nova could be the next one to go.  If Nova goes then I think Barry would be next and sooner or later Eckerd would too. FLN – That would be a pretty cool conference. Coach – It will be a great Division 2 conference.  I think it could be one of the best D2 conferences in the country once we all get up and running.  You know we are getting better, (Florida) Southern will keep getting better, Saint Leo is going to get better this year. Rollins and Tech will keep improving and success will breed success and I’m looking forward to having the strongest conference in D2 right here in Florida. FLN – How do you think the expansion of the tournament will help D2 lacrosse?
Coach Whipple – photo credit Todd Montgomery
Coach – Well you will see more schools begin to put more emphasis on lacrosse. Once administrators see that you can get into the NCAA tournament I think they will support the sport of lacrosse even more than they are doing right now. I don’t think we’ll stop at eight.  I think in another five or six years you could see twelve or sixteen teams in the tournament.  They will keep growing and a lot of the growth has been in D2 and D3.  Geographically, D2 schools are located the South, Mid-West, and the West. In the North you have some D2 schools but it’s mostly division 3.  So as the sport continues to grow through-out the country it will grow more at the Division 2 level. There is just more room for growth at D2. You see more and more schools popping up at the D2 level.  And I think with division 2 being able to offer scholarships and getting better coaches that it’s going to be real strong down the road. After our interview Coach Whipple took me on a tour of their brand new facilities.  The athletic center is incredible.  With theatre style film rooms, glass walled offices, student-athlete study lounge, weight rooms, gyms, and NFL worthy locker rooms it’s a great place to play. They are busy building a brand new lacrosse specific stadium for the Spartans to play in and are on schedule to have it read y for the home opener against Limestone on February 15th. For the full Tampa Spartans schedule visit