NCAA: #1 Tampa goes down, stunned by Frostburg State

Frostburg Lacrosse. (Submitted photo)

“This was their game, not my game and they just wanted to take this win,” Frostburg State head coach Steve Gartelman said after the Bobcats knocked off defending the Division II National Champion University of Tampa Saturday 14-12.

Gartelman stood in between the pipes at Limestone (then College, now University) as the starting goalie for JB Clarke in Clarke’s first two years as head coach at Limestone, where he won three National Championships for the Saints in his 11 years at the helm. Clarke took the job as head coach for the Spartans of Tampa in the summer of ’21.

The “student becomes the teacher” in this case, as Gartelman’s Bobcats got the better of his old head coach’s Spartans, snapping the 25-game win streak that Tampa had been enjoying.

It was just their second matchup in history. Tampa beat the Bobcats 16-6 last year in a matchup in Charlotte.

Frostburg came out swinging, finding the back of the net almost three minutes into the first quarter as senior Jake Bowman scored a beautiful backhanded goal on the crease, off a feed from junior Austin Sipes. The Spartans would answer, and take the lead with goals from Grant Green and Daniel Fitzpatrick putting them ahead 2-1. Frostburg would finish the first quarter on a 5-1 run with goals from Bowman and senior Bubba Love and lead 6-3 after 15 minutes.

Austin Sipes would grow the lead to four at 14:11 of the second quarter with a highlight reel behind-the-back goal. The momentum shifted to the Spartans as they scored two-straight goals to bring them back within two and make the score 7-5 with 9:13 left in the first half. Love would find the back of the net once again before Tampa scored back-to-back goals to narrow the Bobcats lead to one. The Bobcats Tanner Donaldson and Justin Hulse would score two quick goals on skip passes from Bubba Love late in the the half to take a 10-7 lead into the break.

Love, who earned ECC offensive player of the week honors, contributed with three goals and two assists on the day.

“Fullest week of preparation but we wanted to focus on which version of us was best for this match up,” Gartelman said. “We involve our guys a ton [during the week]; scout talks and plans which we feel gets them to understand the gameplay best to execute cleanly.”

Frostburg took more control in the third quarter, one in which the goal lamp only lit up three times. Seniors Tanner Donaldson and Jake Bowman would add to their stats with goals to stretch the Bobcats lead to 12-8 with just 15 minutes to play.

Harry Kilkowski and Canyon Birch each completed their hat tricks for University of Tampa in the fourth quarter to put the Spartans within three goals but the Bobcats kept the Spartans at bay and took a 14-10 lead with just 2:17 remaining with Bubba Loves’ third goal of the game. Tampa would add two late goals but it wasn’t enough as Frostburg completes the historic win.

Bowman and Donaldson, the Frostburg seniors, stepped up in a big way as Bowman tallied four goals on four shots and Donaldson added a hat trick. Tampa could never get enough momentuem to get back into the game and Frostburg answered the bell each time the Spartans tried to rally back.

“For sure this is a huge step, but the journey is long and there is still a lot to learn before we reach that expectation. The daily expectation has always been just to improve,” said Gartelman, who was humble in his accomplishment. “the expectation is the same as it was September 1st.”

Frostburg State climbed to 11th in the nation in this week’s USILA Division II rankings, while Tampa dropped in the rankings to sixth place. Each team had Wednesday home games following this battle; Frostburg hosted Malone College and Tampa took on Embry-Riddle University at home.