LAKELAND – For the second year in a row, the Florida Southern men's lacrosse team suffered a season-opening setback at the hands of Pfeiffer University.
The Falcons (1-0) defeated the No. 10 Moccasins (0-1), 16-15, Saturday afternoon at Bryant Stadium. A strong second-quarter allowed Pfeiffer to pull ahead by six goals, a lead that would turn out to be too large for the Mocs to overcome.
"I think it was just a tough hole to climb out of," said head coach Marty Ward. "Pfeiffer is a scrappy group. It's one of those things where you can't go down six goals and really expect to just show up and claw away. That takes a lot of guts to even come back and tie it.
"I'm very proud of the team and their effort. I'm proud of everything they did today, and I think this group is going to learn from this and build off the loss."
After attackman Grant VanOverbeke gave the Mocs a 4-3 lead with 1:20 to go before halftime, the Falcons scored five unanswered goals in a span of 4:25 to pull ahead, 8-4, at 11:15 in the second quarter. Senior Dane Sorensen found the back of the net 40 seconds later to make it a three-goal difference, but the Falcons responded with three straight to take an 11-5 lead.
Ward said he thought Pfeiffer's ability to grab loose balls in their own attack area gave the Falcons the second-chance opportunities they needed to build a commanding lead.
"We weren't getting the rebounds in our defensive end," he said. "You have to come up with those 50-50 loosies."
Sorensen, who led all of Division II in goals scored a year ago, and VanOverbeke led the charge as the Mocs reduced the once looming deficit to one with a five-goal run of their own. The sophomore from Rosemount, Minn., sparked the flurry with his third tally of the contest.
Sorensen then tickled the twine for three straight goals. The product of Victoria, British Columbia, showed off his strength multiple times, rifling shots from the top of the circle.
Senior midfielder Brendan Mykle-Winkler's goal at 10:39 in the third quarter had the Mocs within one at 11-10.
The Falcons, however, rattled off three of the next four to push their cushion back to four goals.
A solid effort on the backend allowed FSC to recover and tie the game at 15-all late. Goaltender Matt Lalli (New Milford, Conn.) shook off the poor start and recorded seven of his 16 saves in the final period. The Falcons were held scoreless for 17:08 bridging the third and fourth quarters.
VanOverbeke sandwiched a pair of goals around one each from sophomore Cody Dyer (Slingerlands, N.Y.) and Sorensen, the latter with 3:48 to go in regulation which tied the game at 15-15.
Less than a minute later, Pfeiffer midfielder Derek Thomas netted the eventual game-winner.
Lalli stoned Pfeiffer's Eddie Renaud with 50 seconds to go to give the Mocs the final possession of the game. After crossing the midline, Ward called a timeout to give assistant coach Rob Williams an opportunity to draw up the last play.
"I leave that fully in Coach Williams' hands," Ward said. "I give him complete control to draw something up."
"We wanted to get it in the hands of our attackers because they were playing hot today," he added. "We attempted to get in there and get it to the net, drive hard to the net. I think it's just like a basketball mentality, drive hard in the paint and see what you can get."
Sorensen ripped one shot high of the net from straight ahead with 15 seconds to go, and his second attempt went wide. Mykle-Winkler (Langley, B.C.) had the final shot as time expired, but Pfeiffer goalie Michael Moorehead sealed the upset with his eighth save of the game.
FSC's starting attack group accounted for 17 of the team's 23 points. Sorensen finished with a game-high nine points and seven goals, extending his streak of consecutive games with a goal to 25. VanOverbeke added five goals and an assist while Cody Dyer chipped in one goal and an assist.
"I expect them to lead our team every game," Ward said. "I think they're talented enough where they can lead the team. Cody Dyer does things that might not appear on the score sheet, but he creates with those guys. I think our attack is as potent as it comes.
"I am excited to see what they do the rest of the year moving forward."
Renaud paced the Falcons with five goals.
In the faceoff circle, FSC sophomore Blake Weil (Jacksonville, Fla.) won 19 of his 33 draw attempts and collected a game-high eight balls.
Florida Southern will hit the road for its next four games, beginning with visits at Belmont Abbey on Friday, Feb. 13 at 3:30 p.m. and a 2 p.m. matchup against Wingate on Sunday, Feb. 15.