TAMPA - A six goal scoring flurry by top-seeded and fifth-ranked Tampa proved to the difference here Friday night in the second semifinal of the 2016 Sunshine State Conference Tournament as Florida Southern suffered a 15-9 season ending loss to the Spartans at the Naimoli Athletic Complex.
With the setback, the fourth-seeded Moccasins complete its season with 9-9 record, while Tampa improved to 13-2 and advances to Sunday's championship game against No. 2 seeded Rollins, who defeated third-seeded Saint Leo, 10-9, in Friday's first semifinal game.
The nine wins are three more than the Mocs won all of last season as they went 6-8 and failed to qualify for the SSC Tournament as they went 2-3 in the SSC.
In Friday's game, junior attacker Cody Dyer (Slingerlands, N.Y.) scored three goals and sophomore midfielder Lucas Claude (Calgary, Alberta) closed out the season with two goals to push his total to a team-leading 42 on the year. His 42 goals are fourth most on the school's single season list.
The Mocs jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Friday's game thanks to two goals in the opening four minutes from freshman attacker Kyle Silverstein (Smithtown, N.Y.) and Claude. Silverstein's goal came on a man-up opportunity.
UT would score its first goal of the game a little over six minutes into the game on Andrew Kew's 48th goal of the season. Kew was named the SSC Freshman of the Year on Thursday when the league released its All-SSC Men's Lacrosse Teams.
Leading 2-1, the Mocs used a goal from Dyer with 7:53 left in the first quarter to push out to a 3-1 lead.
The Spartans, who have won the first three regular season SSC titles and are seeking its third straight SSC Tournament title this season, would close the opening quarter by scoring three consecutive goals to a take a 4-3 lead. The third goal in the stretch was scored by SSC Player of the Year, Conor Whipple.
UT dominated the second quarter as they scored all four goals in the period to take an 8-3 lead at the half. In the quarter, UT got goals from Kew, Jake Schmidt, Jud Huxtable and Mike Morris.
The Spartans pushed its lead to 9-3 in the opening 32 seconds of the third quarter as Schmidt scored his second goal of the game and would then score four more goals in over the next three-plus minutes to push out to a 13-3 lead. Three of the four goals came from Kew as he finished with six goals on the night.
From that point, the Mocs began to mount a comeback as they used two straight goals from Dyer to pull the Mocs within 13-5. UT, though, would use a goal from Kew right before the third quarter expired to push the Spartans lead to 14-5.
Trailing 14-5 entering the final quarter, the Mocs would fire up its offense as they opened the quarter with an unassisted goal from senior midfielder Kyle McLaughlin (Woolrich Township, N.J.) with 9:54 left in the game and then added an unassisted goal about three minutes later from sophomore midfielder Cody Gray (Riverview, Fla.).
UT would add its 15th goal of the game from Nate Bleckley with 5:48 left in the game.
FSC would then use goals from Claude and sophomore attacker Colin Bayer (Merrick, N.Y.) to cap the scoring. Bayer's goal came with 1:46 left in the game.
For the game, the Mocs held a 51-41 edge in shots and both teams each had 26 shots on goal.
Dyer led the way for the Mocs with 13 shots, while Gray had eight shots and Silverstein and Claude each had seven shots in the loss. On the season, the Mocs finished with a school record 789 shots, which bettered the old school record of 673 set by the 2014 squad.
The Mocs did lose the battle of ground balls, 38-25, but was 17-for-20 on clear attempts. Tampa went 16-for-20 on its clear attempts.
FSC also lost the face-off battle, 16-12, as freshman midfielder Joseph Biondi, Jr. (Orange, Conn.) went 12-for-28 on face-offs and picked up a team-high six ground balls. UT's Alex Patton went 13-for-21 on face-offs and added seven ground balls.
The Mocs had nine extra-man opportunities in the game as they were 4-for-9 on those opportunities thanks to UT committed nine penalties. Tampa went 0-2 on its extra-man chances.
Moccasin goalie Matt Lalli (New Milford, Conn.) closed his stellar junior campaign with 11 saves and had five ground balls. He closes the season with a school record 216 saves and also recorded 66 ground balls.
Along with setting a new school record for single season shots, the Mocs also set new single season marks for ground balls (572) and games played (18). In addition, they also finished one assist short of tying the school record for single season assists as they recorded 118 this year. The school record is 119, which was set in 2014.
Friday's game also marked the final game for the Mocs five-member senior class. The seniors this season are McLaughlin, midfielder Del Donnelly (Cochrane, Alberta), midfielder Tyler Novak (Holbrook, N.Y.), midfielder Jonny Riley (Murrysville, Pa.) and goalie Daniel Rivas (Baldwin, N.Y.).