LAKELAND – The Moccasins came out fired up in its Sunshine State Conference opener, but were unable to hold onto an early lead as they fell to No. 8 Tampa 16-12 on Saturday.
Senior Dane Sorensen was firing from all angles, taking 18 shots and scoring seven times; both of which were game highs. The attackman from Victoria, B.C. opened the game's scoring with two goals in the first five minutes to get the Mocs (1-5, 0-1 SSC) out to an early multi-goal lead.
"If you have a great shooter, he's got to shoot the ball and have the ball on his stick," said Mocs head coach Marty Ward. "He's a special player. He's definitely a player-of-the-year caliber guy and one of the best in Division II, no doubt about it. We have some other guys that are capable of scoring, they're just not finding the net right now. If we keep shooting and trying to find ourselves in the offensive end we are going to be ok."
Florida Southern earned its lead too. Tampa (4-1, 1-0 SSC) won the opening faceoff and fire a barrage of shots at sophomore goalie Matt Lalli (New Milford, Conn.), six to be exact. Lalli was up to the task, however, making two saves in the sequence that lasted the first two minutes of the game before the defense came to his aid and got the ball cleared. Lalli tied his single-game high in saves for the third time this season making 16 stops against the Spartans.
The lead would be short lived, though, as Tampa was able to knot the game at two apiece before the end of the first quarter, and rattled off seven straight goals. The Spartans scored nine of the next 10 goals, and outscored the Mocs 7-1 in the second quarter. Mike Morris led the charge for the Spartans scoring four times in the period and twice on extra-man opportunities. UT would go 5-for-6 while being a man up while FSC was 3-for-6.
Despite the difference in the scoring column, the Moccasins led nearly every category. The Scarlet & White had one more save, committed one less turnover, won one more faceoff, fired three more shots, scooped up four more ground balls, and had a better clear percentage than its conference foes.
After halftime, the two sides would trade blows going back-and-forth with Tampa's lead fluctuating between six and four, but that is as close as the Mocs would be able to get. The two teams combined for 11 goals in the period.
With the score at 15-8 with just 15 minutes left to play, FSC knew it had to apply some pressure to UT; and that is exactly what happened. The offense pelted 14 shots in the final quarter, but was only able to find the back of the cage four times.
"This team has yet to put together four quarters of lacrosse, so when we do we're going to be a pretty good group," Ward said. "Our goal is still to win the conference championship. We want to win every other conference game we have, set ourselves up in a good position, and win the conference championship."
Florida Southern returns to action Tuesday, March 10 at 6 p.m. when Lees-McRae visits Bryant Stadium.