LAKELAND, FL - Three different players scored at least three goals and Florida Southern College women's lacrosse raced out to an early 7-0 lead en route to a 15-7 victory over Florida Tech on Sunday in the championship game of the 2018 Sunshine State Conference Tournament. The top-seeded Moccasins (19-1) dominated from start to finish and defeated the Panthers (16-2) in the conference tournament title game for the second year in a row.
The tournament championship is the third-straight for the Mocs, who have also won the past four SSC regular-season championships. Shannon Mazza led the way with a game-high four goals, while Meghan O'Brien and Emily Santoli had three each. The victory all but assures that Florida Southern will once again host an NCAA Regional, which would take place on May 11-12 at Moccasin Field.
HOW IT HAPPENED
• Mazza got the Moccasins on the board first when she took a feed from Dani Bursinger and buried a shot in the back of the net with 27:24 remaining in the first half. Florida Southern would score the next six goals to get out to a 7-0 lead midway through the period. Mazza struck for another goal at the 22:39 mark of the opening half, while Bursinger, Santoli, Marina Jozokos and Sam Keesey also tallied a goal in the opening flurry.
• Florida Tech scored its first goal of the contest with 12:49 remaining in the first, but the Mocs answered back when Mazza struck for her third goal just more than four minutes later. The Panthers would score the final goal of the first, but the Moccasins took an 8-2 lead into the locker room at the half.
• The Panthers would score three times in the first 15 minutes of the second half, but Florida Southern answered every challenge and never saw its lead dip below five at any point in the second half. Leading by six (12-6) with 9:13 to go, the Mocs would score three in a row to jump out to a 14-6 lead with just over eight minutes to play. FIT sliced the deficit to seven in the final five minutes of action, but O'Brien's goal with eight seconds left put an exclamation point on another emphatic victory.
• Florida Southern outshot Florida Tech 33-25 and forced the Panthers into 27 turnovers, 22 of which were caused by the Moccasin defense. The Mocs dominated draw controls all day, finishing with a 21-3 advantage, and collected 37 groundballs to FIT's 28.
• In addition to her three goals, O'Brien also finished with a team-best two assist. Keesey finished with 10 draw controls, seven groundballs, and four caused turnovers. The Moccasin defense held Florida Tech to just seven goals, nearly 13 less than the Panthers averaged entering Sunday's game (19.5).
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
• Florida Southern improved to 7-1 all-time in SSC Tournament games, including a 3-1 mark in the title contest. The Mocs also improved to 8-0 all-time when facing Florida Tech. The victory was the 25th-straight home win for the Moccasins dating back to last year. Florida Southern is 13-0 at home this season.
• Florida Tech entered Sunday's game with four players who have tallied at least 40 goals this year. The Mocs limited those four players to a combined three goals, one assist, and forced FIT's top goal scorers into 13 turnovers.
• The seven goals scored by the Panthers were FIT's lowest since the Moccasins held Florida Tech to just six goals in last year's NCAA Tournament.
• The Moccasins had five players named to the all-tournament team (Alanna Zambetti, Meghan O'Brien, Emily Santoli, Dani Bursinger, and Sam Keesey). Keesey was named as the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after finishing the weekend with one goal, eight groundballs, 16 draw controls, and six caused turnovers while anchoring a Florida Southern defense that held its two opponents to a combined 13 goals.
• Florida Southern is in line to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, which would take place on May 11-12 at Moccasin Field. Fans can stay updated on any NCAA Tournament information at FSCMocs.com. The NCAA Division II National Championship will be held at the University of Tampa on May 18 (semifinals) and May 20 (championship).