BLOOMSBURG, PA - Late heroics at both the offensive and defensive end gave Florida Southern College women's lacrosse a thrilling 13-12 win over No. 3 Lindenwood on Friday at Steph Pettit Stadium, and secured the Moccasins a spot in their second-straight NCAA Division II title game.
The Moccasins (21-2) jumped out to a quick lead, but the Lions (21-2) would battle back to keep the game close throughout. With just 54 seconds left to play, Meghan O'Brien would put home the go-ahead goal and Taylor Gillis came up with an equally important play in goal, turning away a Lindenwood shot with just eight seconds on the clock.
With the victory, Florida Southern will have the chance to defend its 2016 national championship when it faces No. 1 Adelphi in a rematch of last year's title game. The Moccasins and Panthers will meet at 2 p.m. on Sunday in Bloomsburg.
HOW IT HAPPENED
• Florida Southern looked as if it might cruise into the championship game when it raced out to a 3-0 lead in the opening five minutes of action. Shannon Mazza scored the first goal of the game with 27:49 to play in the first, and Kendall Kerge tacked on a second goal just 14 seconds later.
• After Shannon Gilfedder scored at the 26:27 mark, the Mocs appeared to be in total control, but the Lions would answer with three goals of their own to tie the game at the 16:47 mark of the first half.
• While Florida Southern never trailed in the game, the Mocs were unable to put any real distance between themselves and the Lions. The Moccasins led by two goals (7-5) at the half, but Lindenwood scored in the opening two minutes of the second half to pull within one (7-6).
• The Mocs looked as if they were able to find some breathing room by scoring a pair of goals over the next eight minutes of play to go up by two (8-6). However, Lindenwood would once again mount a comeback and tied the game at 9-9 with a tick under 12 minutes to play.
• Florida Southern was able to respond quickly when Emily Santoli and Cayla Shawfield went back-to-back to make it 11-9, but the Lions again cut the deficit back to one when Sophie Buelow scored on a free-position shot with a little over seven minutes left to play.
• With the Moccasins holding onto a 12-11 lead, Hannah Doughty was able to draw a foul and convert a free-position opportunity for Lindenwood to tie the game with just 4:14 to play.
• After winning the ensuing draw, Florida Southern was able to find a weak spot in the Lion defense, Meghan O'Brien rolled off the crease and Shannon Gilfedder delivered a beautiful pass as O'Brien scored the go-ahead goal.
• Lindenwood was able to win the final draw of the game, and held on for one final shot. Morgan Judd had a great look at goal, but Taylor Gillis stepped in front, made the save, and the Moccasins ran out the clock for the win.
• The Lions finished with 29 shots to Florida Southern's 23, and took 20 shots in the second half alone. The Moccasins won 12-of-21 draw controls, and Lindenwood was whistled for 31 fouls to Florida Southern's 20.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
• Florida Southern improved to 4-4 all-time against Lindenwood, and topped the Lions in the NCAA Tournament semifinal for the second-straight season. The Moccasins are now 5-1 all-time in NCAA Tournament games, and have won five-straight.
• The Mocs also improved to 27-15 all-time when facing a ranked opponent, and are an incredible 98-22 when they are ranked in the IWLCA top 20.
• Kendall Kerge led the Moccasins with three goals, while O'Brien finished with two goals and two assists. Shannon Mazza and Emily Santoli each scored twice, while Dani Bursinger, Shannon Gilfedder, Casey O'Brien and Cayla Shawfield each scored once. Sam Keesey also tallied an assist.
• On the defensive end, Keesey came up with four ground balls, while Bursinger picked up three and also caused three turnovers. Taylor Gillis made 10 stops on the day, eight of which came in the second half.
• The Moccasins extended their winning streak to a school-record 18 games in a row. The winning streak is the longest current win streak at the Division II level, and ranks third among all NCAA Divisions (North Carolina (DI) - 20, Rhodes College (DIII) - 19).
• Florida Southern will face Adelphi at 2 p.m. on Sunday in a rematch of last year's national championship contest. The Moccasins upset the Panthers last year en route to their first-ever national title.