Florida Southern opens play in the 2017 Sunshine State Conference Women's Soccer Tournament tonight by squaring off against Florida Tech in the quarterfinal round. The Moccasins enter the tournament as the No. 3 seed, with the Panthers seeded No. 6. The winner advances to the semifinal round to take on No. 2 seed Barry on Friday at 4:30 p.m. Both semifinal games on Friday and the championship game on Sunday are being hosted by top-seeded Nova Southeastern.
The other side of the bracket has No. 4 seed Eckerd hosting No. 5 seed Tampa, also on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. That winner will move on to play Nova Southeastern on Friday at 7 p.m. Sunday's championship game has a 1 p.m. kickoff.
The Moccasins bring an overall record of 8-2-4 into the SSC Tournament as well as a 5-2-3 conference mark under first-year head coach Paul Lawrence. Both are the best for Florida Southern since the Mocs went 10-5-4 overall and 5-3 in the SSC in 2010. That was also the last time the Mocs had a winning season or advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Heading into the postseason, the Mocs' .714 winning percentage would be the second highest in team history, topped only by the 2008 team under Ben Strawbridge that went 14-4-2 for a .750 percentage.
Florida Southern has been led this year by junior Anna Griessler, who has totaled six goals, four assists and 16 points, with all of those numbers team highs. She's already the first player in the program's 20-year history to lead the team in scoring as both a freshman and sophomore, and now has the chance to do so three years in a row. She's followed closely though by sophomore Alexa Moberley, who has five goals and three assists for 13 points. Together they've helped the Mocs to their best offensive season in eight years.
The Moccasin defensive unit is blessed with a group of veteran players that includes senior Juliana Guida, a 4-year starter on the back line, and senior Jess Goedde, a 3-year starter in the back. Junior Gaelyn Crowder has started every game over the last two seasons at center back after missing most of her freshman season due to injury, giving the Moccasins an experienced defense with 123 starting assignments in their career. With a 1.07 team goals against average, the Mocs are currently ahead of the school record of 1.10, set in 2004 and matched in 2011.
Between the posts, senior Helena Norrstrom has started 39 games in her career, and is having her best season yet, with a 1.03 individual GAA that ranks second in team history. Kim Fish holds that record of 0.97, set in 2004. She has 55 saves and four solo shutouts in 12 games this year. Paige Koetter has started two games and played in five while posting a 1.22 GAA and eight saves.
The Moccasins are making their first appearance in the SSC Tournament since 2013 when they entered as the No. 6 seed and upset Tampa 1-0 in double overtime in the quarterfinals. (That is the only time a No. 3 seed has ever failed to reach the semifinals.) Their season then ended in the semifinals with a 3-0 loss to Rollins. They've advanced to the semifinals in each of their last five appearances in the SSC Tournament, three times as the No. 3 seed, once as the No. 6, and once with a bye as the No. 2 seed in 2008.
Florida Southern has played in the SSC Championship Game twice. In 2008 the Mocs tied Saint Leo before the Lions won in penalty kicks, and in 2009, the Mocs lost to Rollins 1-0. Their all-time record in the SSC Tournament is 5-6-3. (Games that end in a tie are considered ties on the official record, with penalty kicks used to determine advancing teams, or the champion.)
This year will be the fourth time the Mocs have hosted a quarterfinal game, all as the No. 3 seed. They defeated Lynn 3-2 in double overtime in 2009, defeated Saint Leo 2-1 in 2010, and tied Lynn 1-1 in 2012, advancing to the semifinals with a 4-1 decision in penalties.
The Moccasins have faced Florida Tech twice in the SSC Tournament, defeating the Panthers 2-0 in the 2009 semifinals (played at Rollins), and tying 1-1 in the 2010 semifinals (played at Nova Southeastern) before the Panthers moved on in penalty kicks.
Earlier this year on October 4, Florida Southern defeated Florida Tech 2-0 at the Lake Myrtle Sports Park where they went 3-1-1 this season. Moberley scored both goals for Florida Southern, one in the 27th minute after a corner kick by Goedde, and the other in the 50th minute on a ball played up the middle by Caitlin Quaempts. Norrstrom made six saves to record the shutouts, as the Panthers out-shot the Moccasins 18-10, though the Mocs had a season-high 12 corner kicks to the Panthers' three.
Overall, the Moccasins are 7-11-3 against the Panthers, but an even 4-4 on home turf.