Florida Southern Reflects on 16-Win 2014 Season
LAKELAND - When 8:00 p.m. rolled around Sunday evening, Florida Southern discovered that a 16-2 season wasn't enough to continue their season as the Moccasins were not one of the four teams from the South Region selected to participate in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
In just their third year of competition, Florida Southern set multiple program highs thanks to a stellar group of goal scorers and a plethora of talent. The 16 wins shattered the previous mark for wins in a season originally set during the inaugural 12-4 campaign, and their two losses also sets a program mark. In addition, the Mocs achieved a Top 5 ranking in the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches' Association (IWLCA) Division II poll for the first time, and finished with a No. 9 ranking, their highest final ranking in program history. Despite being left out of the dance once again, head coach Kara Reber had nothing but praise for her group of players.
"I am just so proud of this team and all of their hard work and accomplishments from this year," said the third-year head coach, who was named the Independent Coach of the Year for the third-time in as many years. "We've set records in nearly every statistical category this year, and we were very close to making our first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, a goal we've had ever since the first day of practice."
Of those records Reber's team broke, a majority came on the offensive side of the ball. Florida Southern scored an eye-popping 306 goals in 2014, shattering the previous mark of 268 set in 2012. The Mocs also dished out 177 assists to combine for 483 points, both new program highs. The offensive production has also been noticed nationally; Florida Southern currently ranks fourth in Division II in total goals scored and goals scored per game (17.00). Reber attributes the up-tick in scoring to the chemistry between her players.
"The girls have been on the same field for the past three seasons, so they've gotten used to how they all play in game situations. And having to practice against last year's D-II Goalie of the Year on a daily basis leads you to have to be better finishers."
Leading the way for the Mocs in scoring this season was Megan Asper. A junior midfielder from Parkton, Md., Asper currently sits as the all-time leader in goals scored for the Mocs. Asper, who was named the 2014 Independent Player of the Year in April, put 62 goals in the back of the net to rank 11th in the country in goals scored and 15th in the country in goals per game with 3.44. The junior captain also contributed 16 assists in 2014 to give her 78 points, placing her second on the team. Asper scored a career-high seven goals in the Mocs' 15-9 win over Lenoir-Rhyne on March 30.
Also putting points on the board for FSC in 2014 was Lorianne Hoover. Hoover, a junior midfielder from Annapolis, Md., placed second on the team in goals with 48 and second in assists with 21 for 69 points. The junior captain scored a personal-best six goals in the Mocs' 12-11 win against Queens (N.C.) on March 28, and tied a career best for assists with four against Newberry on March 6.
While Asper and Hoover led the team in goals, junior Caitlin Chase stood as the team's points and assists leader. The junior from Mt. Laurel, N.J. dished out 68 assists this season, placing her third in Division II behind Jackie Sileo of LIU-Post and Chelsea Borrino of Lock Haven. The captain attacker also scored 43 to give her 111 points on the year, fourth best in the NCAA. Chase twice tallied 10 points in 2014, against Gannon on March 4 and again on March 24 against Fort Lewis. The junior attacker tallied six assists four times this season, against Gannon, Lenoir-Rhyne, Tampa and Shepherd, and scored a season-best goals against Fort Lewis.
The trio of junior captains - all named First Team All-Independent selections - also became the first Moccasin women's lacrosse players to achieve the milestone of scoring 100 goals in a career. Asper was the first to join the 100-goal club after scoring five against Indiana (Pa.) on March 15, including the game-winner with 0.6 seconds remaining on the clock to seal the five-goal comeback. Chase was the second Lady Moc to tally 100 for a career with 3:38 left in the first half against Shorter on April 18, while Hoover's second goal against Shepherd the very next day with 2:14 left on the clock in the opening half admitted her to the 100-goal club.
Not to be overshadowed by the offense, the Moccasin defense was also shined in 2014. The team allowed a program-best 8.89 goals per game, caused 204 turnovers and picked up 476 ground balls this season. Leading the charge on defense was Parrisa Sakinejad. A freshman from Millers, Md., Sakinejad was named First Team All-Independent after causing 24 turnovers and picking up 49 groundballs. The freshman defender set a program record for most caused turnovers in a game with eight in a 12-8 victory over Tiffin on March 10. Sakinejad also won 22 draw controls, and contributed 12 points on offense with seven goals and five assists.
In goal for the Mocs from start to finish was senior Katie Hammerer. Hammerer, the reigning Division Goalie of the Year, made 125 saves in 901 minutes of action this season. While the senior's save percentage dipped slightly from last year (.515 in 2013 to .484 in 2014), she improved her goals against average (8.92) and helped the Mocs to 16 wins this season with her play between the pipes. Hammerer's best game of 2014 came against Stonehill on March 18, when the senior made 15 stops to help Florida Southern upset the then-ranked seventh Skyhawks, 12-11.
Big things are on the horizon for Florida Southern; with the Sunshine State Conference sponsoring women's lacrosse in 2015, Reber believes playing in a conference gives her squad a better chance to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament as opposed to competing as an Independent.
"Playing in a conference would definitely help us receive more in-region and overall wins. Those are just two of the criteria the Selection Committee looks at when making their decisions, and I believe competing in a conference instead of as an Independent should help us make that push into the NCAA Tournament."
"We have 10 of the 12 starters coming back next season and a good group of freshmen coming in," Reber continued. "They've helped set the bar high for future teams at Florida Southern. I know we are all ready to start the 2015 season."