Career of sparkling results for Milligan College's Spoto


Photo by Dave Boyd
Bianca Spoto has accumulated 105 points during her Lady Buffs career.

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com
When Marty Shirley stumbled upon Bianca Spoto, the Milligan College women's soccer team didn't know what they were getting. Shirley, the former women's soccer coach at Milligan, pounced on Spoto when he heard that his fellow Clearwater, Florida native had not yet signed with a college.
The leading scorer for Milligan's team, Spoto has been on the field since she was four years old.
"My brother played," she said, "and when I was four, my mom couldn't keep me off the field. I would run out during his games and try to kick the ball."
The rest is history. Spoto played club soccer for eight years with the Clearwater Chargers, winning four state championships, as well as playing through middle school and high school. She continues to play at Milligan. During her high school years at Clearwater Central Catholic, Spoto helped her team win two state championships.
After high school graduation, Spoto planned to attend Florida State University, where many of her friends had already decided to go. However, Coach Shirley, who wisely kept tabs on the young soccer phenomenon, decided to persuade her differently.
"He heard I hadn't signed anywhere. I was going to Florida State just to go," Spoto said. "It got around that I hadn't signed and he just gave me a call one day, and invited me up."
Despite Milligan's distance from her hometown more than 700 miles away, the decision to accept Shirley's offer was not a difficult one for Spoto.
"I just came up, and I really enjoyed the people I met, and liked the area. I just wanted to branch out," she said. "I had decided within that weekend to come up here (for school)."
A four-year starter for the Lady Buffaloes, Spoto has seen both players and coaches come and go. A senior this year, she says the girls on the team have a tight-knit relationship.
"We have a whole new team (this year), but we've become so close during pre-season. We were practicing together three or four times a day."
David Dixon, the current women's soccer coach, is in his first year as the team's head coach. Spoto said the transition from playing under Shirley to playing for Dixon was smooth.
"It wasn't bad because he came in the spring of last year. He kind of eased into coaching; he became our friend first, so we knew him pretty well from pre-season," Spoto said.
Todd Miner, the team's assistant coach, said that coaching Spoto is great.
"She does everything asked of her and more," he said. "She's motivated, a good leader, and works hard constantly. It inspires the rest of the team to work when a player like her does."
Spoto has been named NAIA National Player of the Week this season, as well as being named NAIA Regional and Conference Player of the Week. Her junior and senior year, Spoto has played 25 games, and started eighteen of those, including every game her senior year.
During her soccer career at Milligan, Spoto has tallied 47 goals (18 this season), assisted on 11 scores and accumulated 105 points. She made two game-winning goals her junior year, and has had three this year.
Spoto helped her team defeat conference opponents Brevard and the 22nd ranked Covenant during the week of September 22-27. She scored six goals as well as recording an assist.
Spoto also received honorable mention as an All-American in 2002. "(Coach Dixon) pushes us hard," Spoto said. "He expects a lot of us. It's good in a way, because it makes us work better as a team."
Spoto majored in communications, with an emphasis on advertising and public relations. A seasoned expert at juggling academics with soccer, Spoto said it wasn't quite so easy her freshman year.
"It was very, very difficult," she recalled. "My sophomore year, I started to ease into balancing my time between soccer and school. My junior and senior years, I've done really well balancing between them, and knowing when soccer needs to be on my mind, and when classes need to be on my mind."
After graduation from Milligan, Spoto hopes to enroll in a graduate program at the University of Tennessee, the University of Florida, or the University of Georgia.
Coaches Dixon and Miner are just glad that, upon their arrival at Milligan, they were handed a team with Spoto on it. "We just lucked out," Miner said.