GAFFNEY, S.C. – The defending NCAA Division II champions from Limestone used an impressive second-half performance to run away with a 17-6 victory over Florida Southern Saturday afternoon.
The No. 1 ranked Saints (6-0) entered the locker room at halftime only leading the Moccasins (1-3) by two, 6-4. After making the necessary adjustments during the break, they showed why they're the number-one team in Division II, outscoring the Mocs 11-2 in the final 30 minutes.
The Mocs jumped out to an early lead over the reigning national champions. Sophomore midfielder Jack Pedernales (Charlotte, N.C.) scored the opening goal, his first of the season, at 12:12 in the first quarter. Freshman midfielder Cody Gray (Riverview, Fla.) gave the Mocs another one-goal lead, 2-1, with about six-and-a-half minutes to go in the quarter.
The Saints responded with three straight, the last two from junior Mike Messenger inside the first two minutes of the second quarter. An Inside Lacrosse First-Team Preseason All-American and the 2014 Conference Carolinas Player of the Year, Messenger finished with five goals to lead all scorers.
Pedernales found the back of the net with a rifle from the left wing for his second goal to bring the Mocs within one, 4-3, but the Saints answered to take back a two-goal advantage just over a minute later.
Sophomore attackman Grant VanOverbeke (Rosemount, Minn.) ripped one from the left wing to far corner on the extra-man opportunity to cut the deficit to 5-4, but Messenger added a man-up goal off his own to take a two-goal cushion at the half.
Messenger's third goal started what turned into a 10-0 run from 3:00 in the second quarter to 14:04 in the fourth. After the Saints won the opening faceoff of the second half, it took Messenger only 31 seconds to register his fourth goal. Junior Dale Cornetta then scored back-to-back tallies to push the lead to 9-4.
Penalties did the Mocs no favor against the nation's top-ranked team. They were assessed eight fouls, including a two-minute unreleasable penalty following Messenger's fifth goal at 5:19 in the third quarter, which turned into a Limestone goal 30 seconds later on the ensuing possession. FSC found itself down two men following its third faceoff violation of the second half, resulting in Limestone's 13th goal a mere 12 seconds later.
Freshman Lucas Claude (Calgary, Alberta) ended the 20:37 scoring drought. With the Mocs a man-up, he Claude cut to the through the heart of the defense and deposited the goal from point-blank range. With 1:39 remaining, senior midfielder Brendan Mykle-Winkler (Langley, B.C.) added FSC's sixth goal.
Sophomore goalie Matt Lalli (New Milford, Conn.) made 11 saves in 51:46 of playing time between the pipes. Senior defender Trenell Boggans (Syracuse, N.Y.) led the Moccasin defense with four ground balls and four caused turnovers.
As a team, Limestone led in nearly every category. The Saints had more 23 more shots (50-to-27) and 27 more ground balls (48-to-21), while dominating the faceoff circle with 20 victories in 27 attempts.
Senior attackman Dane Sorensen (Victoria, B.C.) was held with a point for the first time since the first game of his sophomore season on Feb. 8, 2013, and saw his streak of 27 consecutive games with a goal come to an end.
The Mocs will head to Hickory, N.C., for a 1 p.m. matchup on Monday, March 2 against Lenoir-Rhyne to conclude their two-game road series in the Carolinas.