TAMPA, FL - Meghan O'Brien scored five goals and two other players notched a hat trick as Florida Southern College women's lacrosse advanced to its third-straight NCAA Division II National Championship game with a 20-14 win over No. 13 East Stroudsburg on Friday at UT Lacrosse Stadium. The Moccasins (21-1) raced out to a 3-0 lead and never led by less than two goals the rest of the way to top the Warriors (15-4) for their third trip in a row to the national title contest.
Florida Southern will square off against either No. 2 Le Moyne or No. 11 Regis at noon on Sunday as it vies for the school's 31st NCAA Division II National Championship. The Moccasins won the national title in 2016 and finished as the runner-up a year ago.
HOW IT HAPPENED
• Shannon Gilfedder got the scoring started just 53 seconds into play when she took a pass from Emily Santoli and found the back of the net to make it 1-0. Meghan O'Brien would tack on a shorthanded goal less than two minutes later to push the lead to 2-0. Sarah Grady's goal at the 22:48 mark made it 3-0 in favor of the Moccasins. East Stroudsburg finally got on the board 30 seconds later to slice the deficit to two (3-1).
• O'Brien and Dani Bursinger would each score over the next two minutes to go up by four (5-1), but the Warriors answered again with a goal at the 19:12 mark to pull back within three (5-2). After nearly three minutes without a goal, Riley Bannatyne buried a shot to make it 6-2 and Emily Santoli scored with 13:54 to go in the first to push the lead to five (7-2). However, East Stroudsburg answered back with three-straight scores to get within two (7-5) with just under seven minutes to go in the first.
• The Moccasins would score three times before the end of the first half but the Warriors would also strike for three, including one with 23 seconds to go, to make it a two-goal deficit at the half (10-8).
• Florida Southern used a 3-0 run to start the second half and put distance between itself and East Stroudsburg. O'Brien scored twice in the opening five minutes while Marina Jozokos also added a goal to make it 13-8. East Stroudsburg was able to get within four goals on two different occasions in the final 12 minutes of action, but Gilfedder and Adriana Benedetto each scored in the final five minutes to make the final 20-14.
• O'Brien scored five goals and tallied three assists, while Santoli and Shannon Mazza each had three. Santoli also added two assists, as did Gilfedder, while Sam Keesey added nine draw controls, five groundballs, and four caused turnovers.
• The Moccasins outshot the Warriors 44-27, including a 35-23 edge in shots on goal. East Stroudsburg tallied 19 draw controls to Florida Southern's 17, but committed 26 turnovers and completed just 15-of-25 clears.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
• Florida Southern improved to 1-0 all-time against East Stroudsburg and moved to 7-2 all-time in NCAA Tournament games. The Moccasins are now 3-0 all-time in the NCAA Division II semifinal round.
• A win for the Moccasins in the national title game would be its 22nd of the year, tying the 2014 Adelphi squad for the most in a single season in Division II history. The Mocs are the third team in Division II history to advance to back-to-back-to-back title games.
• During Friday's game, it was announced that seven different Moccasins had earned IWLCA all-South Region honors. The Mocs had five first-team selections (Dani Bursinger, Shannon Gilfedder, Sam Keesey, Meghan O'Brien, and Emily Santoli) and two second-team honorees (Sarah Rheinsmith and Meghan Vadala).
• Florida Southern will face either No. 2 Le Moyne or No. 11 Regis on Sunday at noon for the NCAA Division II National Championship. A win for the Mocs would be their second women's lacrosse national title and the 31st overall for Florida Southern athletics. It would also be the fourth-straight year that Florida Southern has won an NCAA Division II championship.