LAKELAND - Sophomore Meghan O'Brien picked the right time to play her best game of her brief Moccasin career as she scored her career high fifth goal with 24 seconds left in overtime here Thursday evening to give 11th-ranked Florida Southern a 10-9 overtime victory over third-ranked Lindenwood in non-conference action at Bryant Stadium.
The Rochester, N.Y. native finished the game with five goals and added an assist for six points in helping the Mocs earn its third straight win and improve to 8-3 on the season. In addition, the win was also the Mocs first against a team ranked in the Top 5 nationally in program history.
"We've been talking all season about some kids having that knack to go to the cage," Moccasin head coach Kara Reber said following her team's win. "We did have a set play, but people weren't really moving, so she (Meghan O'Brien) decided she's going which was great. She had an outstanding game tonight with five goals and an assist."
Prior to Thursday's win, the highest ranked team the Mocs had ever beaten was seventh-ranked Stonehill in double overtime in 2014. In that game, the Mocs earned a 12-11 victory in Lakeland.
"I think we did a lot of things right tonight and we definitely made some major mistakes, but I think it gives our team some confidence that they can compete with anyone in Division II,"the Mocs coach added.
Thursday's win also helped the Mocs extract some revenge on the Lady Lions as Lindenwood picked up two wins over Florida Southern last season, including earning a 14-13 win in double overtime in St. Charles, Mo., in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament. Both of the games were decided by a single goal, much like Thursday's contest.
O'Brien's game winning goal in overtime wouldn't have happened had it not been for junior attacker Kendall Kerge (Edgewater, Md.), who scored a goal with 38 seconds left in regulation to tie the game and force a sudden death overtime period. Kerge's goal, which was assisted by redshirt freshman midfielder Shannon Mazza (Kings Park, N.Y.), came as the Lady Lions were playing two players down due to back-to-back yellow cards with a little over a minute remaining in the game.
"It certainly helped that they got a couple of yellow cards that helped us tie the game up," Reber said when asked about Kerge's goal that sent the game into overtime.
The Mocs jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the game's opening 10-plus minutes thanks to free position goals by sophomore attacker Shannon Gilfedder (Longwood, Fla.) and freshman attacker Casey O'Brien (Morris Plains, N.J.) and goals by Meghan O'Brien and senior attacker Ashley Robertson (Ellicott City, Md.). Both of those goals came off of assists by sophomore midfielder Emily Santoli (Fort Salonga, N.Y.).
Lindenwood, who fell to 10-2 on the season with its second straight loss as they suffered a 12-11 loss on Tuesday at fifth-ranked Rollins, would answer the Mocs by scoring five consecutive goals over the final 14 minutes of the first half to take a 5-4 halftime lead. The final goal of the half, which was scored by Amanda Schimpke, came with one second remaining on the game clock.
Meghan O'Brien tied the game a little over five minutes into the second half on an unassisted goal.
After Hannah Doughty scored on a free position shot with 19:50 left in the game to give the Lady Lions a 6-5 lead, Meghan O'Brien scored two straight goals, including one on a free position shot, to give the Mocs a 7-6 lead with 9:58 left in the game.
Rachel Benzing and Jordyn Constance would help the Lady Lions retake the lead at 8-7 after scoring goals with 8:21 and 5:54 left in the game.
Kerge, though, would score 39 seconds later as she took a pass from Meghan O'Brien and found the goal to tie the game at 8-all with 5:15 remaining.
It appeared that Lindenwood would retake the lead with 4:12 left in the game, but Constance's free position shot was saved by sophomore goalie Paige Brodbeck (Millersville, Md.). Brodbeck finished the game with eight saves and also had two ground balls as she improved to 3-1 on the season.
On the Mocs ensuing possession, Brodbeck would commit a turnover with 3:25 left in game on a bad pass at midfield and the Lady Lions would retake the lead 14 seconds later on an unassisted goal by Allison Hurley.
Senior defender Nicole Bellini (Winter Park, Fla.) would make the defensive play of the night as she caused a turnover on Schimpke near the Lady Lions goal with 1:25 left in the game.
On the Mocs trip down the field following Bellini's play, the Lady Lions would commit yellow cards with 1:15 left and 1:04 respectively left in regulation to help the Mocs as they had three chances to tie the game in the final 54 seconds as they misfired on two free position attempts and then used Kerge's team leading 27th goal of the season to even the score and force overtime.
In overtime, the Lady Lions put two shots on goal that were saved by Brodbeck, before Meghan O'Brien found the back of net with 24 seconds left in overtime to seal the victory and earn her first game winning goal of the season.
On the night, the Mocs outshot the Lady Lions, 30-20 and committed two less turnovers, 21-19.
Perhaps the biggest difference in the game was the foul count as a combined 75 fouls were called in the game, including Lindenwood being whistled for 52. FSC had 23 fouls on the night.
Benzing, Doughty and Maddy Ossello each had two goals for Lindenwood.
Delaney Solomon played the entire game in goal for Lindenwood and finished with 15 saves and five ground balls, while allowing 10 goals.
FSC was 3-for-10 on free position shots, while Lindenwood went 3-for-7. In addition, Lindenwood held a 22-16 edge in ground balls.
Senior Gabby Barowski (Alexandria, Va.) paced the Mocs defense with six ground balls and three caused turnovers. Barowksi was named the IWLCA Division II National Player of the Week on Wednesday night after earning the Sunshine State Conference's Defensive Player of the Week accolade this past Monday.
The Mocs will have little time to savor Thursday's victory as they open SSC play on Saturday, April 2 at 1 p.m. in Bryant Stadium against the University of Tampa. FSC has never lost an SSC game as they went 4-0 in the league's inaugural season for women's lacrosse in 2015.