Mocs Look Back on Historic 2014 Season
LAKELAND - Out of the four teams selected from the South Region to compete in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, Florida Southern was not among them following the end of the NCAA Division II Selection Show Sunday evening.
Florida Southern, possessing an 11-4 overall record and 4-1 mark in the inaugural season of the Sunshine State Conference, finished the season with a No. 12 ranking in the latest United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) Division II Coaches' Poll. The Moccasins also advanced to the first-ever Sunshine State Conference Men's Lacrosse Tournament Championship game, where they fell 11-6 to top-seeded and conference regular season champion Tampa.
"Being in the SSC title game is something we're looking to do ever year," said head coach Marty Ward, currently in his fourth season at the helm of the Mocs. "You have to want to compete for titles every year, and that's what we're trying to do here."
Their 11 wins topped the previous high-mark of 10 set during the 2012 season, while their second-place finish in the SSC is the highest regular season finish for the program since tying for second in the Deep South Conference in 2011. This also marks the third time Florida Southern has appeared in a tournament championship game, with back-to-back title appearances in the Deep South Conference Tournament Final in 2012 and 2011.
In addition to their 11-win season, the Mocs also found themselves in the USILA Top 15 for the first time when they were ranked 14th in the March 31 poll. FSC shot up to as high as No. 9 in the country since first cracking the Top 15, and will finish with their highest placing in the final Coaches' Poll in program history.
Not only was this season historic in the win column, but also in the stats column. In the six years since the first Moccasin season in 2009, no FSC team has scored more goals than the 2014 version. The Mocs lit up opposing goalkeepers this season, putting 218 goals on the board and averaging 14.53 goals per game. Florida Southern also put up 119 assists on the year for a total of 337 points in 2014, both ranking at the top in their respective categories in the Moccasin history books. At the end of the regular season, Florida Southern ranks fifth in the NCAA in goals scored per game and sixth in total goals scored. The Scarlet-and-White also rank seventh in the NCAA in total points and points per game, and eighth in assists.
Florida Southern smashed their team record for goals scored against Shorter in March with 28, and in their upset win over No. 10 Lake Erie on March 5 scored nine in the first quarter to pave the way for a 12-10 upset over the Storm. The Moccasins also scored a program-best 12 goals in a single quarter when they bombarded UMass-Boston with 22 goals on March 18. Coach Ward attributes this season's goal explosion to the offensive system put in place by himself and assistant coach Rob Williams.
"A lot of credit to our offensive success goes to the system we run which enables the guys we have to make plays. Coach Williams does a great job as our offensive coach and we are fortunate to have quality players at FSC that play hard until the final whistle."
Leading the way for the Mocs all season long was attackman Dane Sorensen. A junior from Victoria, British Columbia, the First Team All-SSC selection's 2014 season could only be described as prolific. Through May 4, the junior attackman leads all of Division II with 63 goals and 4.20 goals per game. Sorensen earned SSC Offensive Player of the Week three times this season, and was awarded the Inside Lacrosse Brine Division II National Player of the Week after putting up 15 points on 10 goals and five assists against Lake Erie and Shorter. In the SSC Tournament Semifinal against Saint Leo, the Canadian scoring-machine put on a clinic by lighting up the Lion defense for 10 goals while dishing out two assists for 12 points.
Not only has Sorensen set in-game records, but he has also established new program records for goal scoring in a season. On April 2, Sorensen broke the school record for goals in a season when he scored No. 44 and No. 45 against SSC-foe Lynn to surpass the mark previously set by Cam Holding in 2010. He would go on to break the single-season record for points - also set by Holding in 201 - when he scored five goals to help propell the Mocs to a comeback win over Saint Leo on April 5. The British Columbian also became the first Moccasin men's lacrosse player to score 100 goals in a career when he scored six against Mars Hill on March 23.
"Dane had an incredible year, no doubt about it," Ward said. "All the work he put in during the off-season has definitely paid dividends this year, and we're expecting big things from him next season."
Also leading the way for the Scarlet-and-White in 2014 was freshman Grant VanOverbeke. A freshman attackman from Rosemount, Min., VanOverbeke was 2014 SSC Co-Newcomer of the Year as well as a Second Team All-SSC and All-Freshman honoree after putting up 69 points on 35 goals and 34 assists. The freshman attackman broke the previous school record for assists in a season, and averaged over two assists per game in 2014. Another contributor from the attack position was freshman Cody Dyer (Slingerlands, N.Y.). A Second Team All-SSC recipient and member of the All-Freshman Team, Dyer was third on the team with 46 points off 31 goals and 15 assists, putting up a personal-best seven points on five goals and two assists against Rollins on March 1 in the first-ever Sunshine State Conference men's lacrosse game.
Not to be outdone by their underclassmen teammates, the Moccasin seniors also stepped up to the plate on offense. Midfielder Chris Murphy (Camillus, N.Y.) received Second Team All-SSC honors by putting up 22 goals and nine assists for 31 points in 2014, while Shane Tompkins (Bear, Del.) and Kevin Naslonski (East Setauket, N.Y.) combined for 25 goals and 16 assists for 41 points on the year. At the face-off circle, Dan Krispinsky (Fort Myers, Fla.) cemented himself as the all-time program leader in face-offs by going 194-332 at the draw this season, with a personal-best 21 face-off wins coming against Colorado Mesa on March 28.
While their offense stole the spotlight and newspaper headlines, the Florida Southern defense also excelled during the season by placing 75% of their starting unit on the All-SSC First Team list. Led by returning 2013 Honorable Mention All-American and 2014 First Team All-SSC selection DJ Lubs (Rockford, Mich.), the Moccasin defense limited opponents to 9.27 goals per game and caused 118 turnovers. The defense was especially stout when playing a man-down, limiting the opposition to a paltry 28% conversion rate on extra-man opportunities.
After what could only be described as inconsistent play from the goalie position in 2013, the Mocs turned to freshman Matt Lalli in 2014 and were kindly rewarded. The first-year net-minder from New Milford, Conn. made 125 saves in 2014, placing him third all-time for saves in a season with Andrew Almansberger in 2012. Lalli also posted a save-percentage of .484 and a goals against average of 8.33. The freshman posted six double-digit save totals in 2014, with a season-best 13 coming against Saint Leo in the SSC Tournament Semifinal. Lalli would make 12 stops against Tampa in the tournament final, earning him a spot on the SSC All-Tournament Team.
Although Florida Southern's season may not have ended the way they hoped it would, the 2014 campaign was certainly a historic one for the Florida Southern men's lacrosse program. Coach Ward sees a bright future on the horizon for the Moccasins.
"We were knocking on the NCAA door with this team. We were one quality win away from playing in May. But we should be expecting to compete for SSC titles and NCAA berths every year. We're losing some key guys to graduation this year, but we feel like we have a quality class coming in and some very strong players returning to Lakeland in 2015. We expect to be in the mix for a spot in the NCAA Tournament for years to come."