LAKELAND – Florida Southern’s defense has given the Moccasins a chance to win almost every game this season, and Caroline Evers is turning into the type of player who can do the same thing on offense. Saturday night against 16th-ranked Tampa, that combination wasn’t quite enough to get Florida Southern the win it was after, but it was enough to earn a 1-1 tie that secured a first-round home game for the Mocs in the SSC Tournament, and kept them in the running for the NCAA postseason as well.
Evers scored Florida Southern’s goal in the 28th minute, giving the Moccasins (5-6-3, 3-2-2 Sunshine State Conference) a 1-0 lead. The Spartans (11-3-3, 5-1-2) would tie the game with Lauren Moore scoring in the 57th minute, but for the rest of the match, players like Morgan Sammons, Christine Knudstrup, Brooke Williams and Gianna Conte took center stage, not to mention Erin Moseley, who made three highlight-reel saves. Even with Tampa out-shooting the Mocs 17-5, that group of players turned away one assault after another.
In the first half Tampa may have had the edge in time of possession, but Evers took advantage of a mistake by Spartan goalkeeper Kori Butterfield to score her fifth goal of the season. The freshman forward intercepted a ball Butterfield was attempting to clear, and with the net open for the taking, dribbled in and lofted a 20-yard shot over her head. It was Evers’ fifth goal of the season, with all of them coming in the last eight games. It was the first goal allowed by Tampa in the last four games, which included a pair of scoreless ties.
It was one of only four shots the Mocs had in the first half, though the combination of Evers, Kara Moore and Kayla Wilhide put them in position to score a handful of times in the early going. The best of those chances came in the ninth minute when Evers got the ball in to Wilhide, who laid it off for Moore at the top of the box. The junior midfielder hit a strong shot but saw it go wide left.
The Moccasins were almost equally stingy with the shots allowed in the first half, allowing only five. One of those was a laser from 30 yards out taken by Lauren Moore in the 34th minute that was stopped in spectacular fashion by Erin Moseley. The Spartans also had an even better chance to score in the 31st minute when a corner kick went off three different Spartans inside the box, but none of them could get a shot.
In the second half, Tampa also had the better of it in terms of possession, but this time the Spartans also out-shot the Moccasins 8-0. They turned one of those shots into a goal after winning a corner kick in the 57th minute. The Mocs initially pushed it out, but Courtney Peffley sent the ball right back into the 6-yard box where Moore flicked a header past Moseley for her league-leading 14th goal of the season.
Moseley made her second huge save in the 86th minute when Gabby Russo sent a free kick right into the middle of the box for CiCi Gonzalez. The free kick could not have been placed any better than it was, but Moseley stopped the shot to keep the game tied. Russo had also been kept off the scoreboard earlier in the half when Williams blocked another of her shots.
In the first overtime, Moseley made another critical save against Gonzalez, and during another stretch, the Mocs survived three UT corner kicks in the span of a minute. The biggest play may have come from Knudstrup though, who shut down Russo on a run inside the box, preventing her from going in against Moseley 1-on-1.
The second overtime saw Moseley deny Amber Pennybaker at close range before Gonzalez hit the crossbar with another shot. Danielle Hancock then saw her shot saved by Butterfield with 20 seconds to play, the last chance either team had to end the deadlock.
The tie ensured the Moccasins will finish third in the SSC regular season standings, which gives them a first-round home game in the conference tournament against Lynn on October 30. It also clinched the SSC regular season title for Rollins, and locked Tampa into second place. Rollins and Tampa will receive first-round byes, with Rollins hosting the semifinals and championship game.
Florida Southern’s next game will be Wednesday night in St. Petersburg against Eckerd in a non-conference match at 7:00 p.m.