University of Tampa Spartans already thinking repeat

University of Tampa third baseman Cody deNoyelles knows the Spartans have a target on their back in 2016.

"We're the bullseye, everyone is coming for us."

Ranked at the top of the preseason poll, the Spartans are on everybody's radar.

Just last season, they won their second national championship in three seasons and their seventh overall. It's the second-most in Division II history.

"To be on top of the DII world each year has been real special and it's a challenge," said head coach Joey Urso. "It's tough when everyone's gunning for you each night and you can't take a night off."

Coach Urso has been a part of five of seven of UT's national championships, one as a player and four as a head coach. He says it's never too early to start thinking about the next one.

"We start thinking about it from day one," said Urso. "You came here to graduate from a private school, to have a chance to win a national championship and then to move on to pro ball. We preach it a lot, we show the championship rings and they know the motivation here is try to go out on top."

The Spartans don't have to look far for motivation. The team's been ranked every season since 1998. Its biggest challenge this year will be rebuilding after losing more than half its position players.

Opposing teams won't look at it that way, though.

"We have to prepare ourselves, because everybody's going to throw their best at us," said deNoyelles. "We just have to be ready for it."

"The guys we lost are really tough to replace," said Urso. "A lot of home run guys in the middle of that order, so it's going to be a challenge, but we're going to find a way to win, just in a little bit of a different style."

A different style, with the same goal in mind -- putting another piece of hardware in the trophy case.

The Spartans open the 2016 season at home on Friday, January 29 against Bentley.

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