LAKELAND, Fla. – The Saint Leo men's lacrosse team was bounced out of the Deep South Conference Tournament in first round action as they dropped an overtime heart breaker to Florida Southern, 9-8 on Tuesday evening at Bryant Stadium. The Lions conclude their 2012 campaign with a record of 7-7, while the Mocs move on with a mark of 9-5 and advance to the tourney semifinals.
Saint Leo was led by Chris Caiazza and Ray Ferrara, who each tallied a hat trick on the evening. Matt Obermeyer notched three points with a goal and two assists, and George Proechel wrapped up the goal scoring for the Lions with one of his own. Larry McLaughlin earned two assists on the night, while Robert Hutchinson was credited with an assist of his own.
In goal, Patrick Berry had a career day between the pipes, making 16 saves and allowing only nine goals. The Pasadena, Md. native collected five ground balls on the day, as well.
Robert Hutchinson came up big at the faceoff-x, winning 11-of-19 attempts, and picking up a team high seven ground balls. Defensively, the Lions saw big games out of Doug Moore, Steven McDonald, Dylan D'Airo, Kevin Hutchinson, Alex Monteferrante, and Sean Connolly as the Green and Gold held the Mocs to just nine goals on 43 total shots and 26 shots on frame.
The Mocs were led by Kyle Plaugher with three goals. Ricky DeMicco matched Plaugher in points with two goals and an assist on the day. In cage, Andrew Almansberger made 10 save while allowing eight goals.
Squaring off against Florida Southern for the second time in four days, the game rolled out to a slow start with 10 minutes melting off of the clock without a goal from either team.
Caiazza opened the flood gates off of an assist from Obermeyer with 4:58 to go in the first period, and two minutes later Proechel collected a quick pass fromm McLaughlin to put the Lions up 2-0. Hutchinson won the ensuing faceoff to hold onto possession, and the Lions worked the ball around the perimeter and into the stick of Caiazza, who ripped another shot into the top left corner to give the Lions a 3-0 advantage with 1:46 left in the quarter.
Berry made a key save on a shot from DeMicco 46 seconds later, holding the Mocs off of the scoreboard in the opening 15 minutes of play, marking just the third time this season the FSC has been held off the scoreboard in the opening period.
Florida Southern finally put a goal on the scoreboard with 12:08 remaining before the half on a fast break clear down field, closing the gap to 3-1. The Mocs grabbed the next goal to pull to within one with 10:48 on the clock, but the Lions regained possession on the resulting faceoff and Obermeyer fed a shot to Ferrara for a rip into the bottom left to pull Saint Leo out to a 4-2 lead with 8:07 to go before the half.
The Lions extended their advantage back out to three on a goal from Obermeyer, but FSC broke the streak with an unassisted goal by Plaugher at the 5:43 mark. Ferrara answered right back, and dodged two defenders to earn his second goal of the evening with 3:16 to go, but Adam Ismaeil tallied the last goal of the half, and pulled Florida Southern to within two at the half with a score of 6-4.
The Mocs opened up the second half, scoring three minutes into the third quarter off of a goal from Dane Sorensen to set the score at 6-5. Florida Southern won the resulting faceoff, and capitalized on their offensive opportunity as Plaugher grabbed a feed from behind the goal from DeMicco for the first equalizer of the game, 6-6, with 10:15 left in the third stanza.
Hutchinson won the following faceoff, and a settled Saint Leo attack set up Ferrara for his third goal of the night off of an assist from McLaughlin with 8:45 on the clock, but the Mocs answered back with a power play goal with 2:17 on the clock to close out the third period with a score of 7-7.
The final period saw back and forth action to open play, but the fourth quarter remained scoreless for 13 minutes. Berry stood on his head to make a save on a behind the back shot to keep the Mocs off the scoreboard, and grabbed the ground ball and cleared the ball to give the Lions offensive possession. A quick timeout called by Saint Leo gave the Lions the momentum, but two quick shots rattled off by the Lions both sailed wide.
Despite the two missed attempts, Robert Hutchinson fed the ball to Caiazza who sent a well-placed shot into the top left to give Saint Leo an 8-7 lead with 2:06 to go in regulation. Despite the Lions' best efforts, Florida Southern put the final equalizer on the scoreboard a minute later, closing out the fourth quarter with the score knotted at 8-8.
The Lions fought hard as the overtime period got under way, and forced Florida Southern to turn the ball over to gain possession. A shot by Ferrara with 43 ticks on the clock was miraculously saved by Almansberger, and the Mocs came up with the loose ball and found success on their clear attempt.
With just seconds to go, Florida Southern's Jon Freda was able to feed a pass to Brendan Mykle-Winkler, who found a way to place a shot past Berry for the sudden-victory goal with just four seconds left in the first overtime period.
Florida Southern led the shot count, 43-33, as well as shots on goal 26-18. The Lions won 12-of-21 faceoffs, holding the second best team in the conference to a success rate of just 43 percent on faceoffs for the evening.
The Lions conclude their 2012 campaign in the first round of the Deep South Conference tournament, but their sights are already set on the 2013 season. With hungry eyes and eager hearts the Saint Leo men's lacrosse team knows this season's end is also the start of a new beginning, and hopes are high for next season. Fans can follow the Lions throughout the offseason by visiting saintleolions.com.