SAINT LEO, Fla. – Saint Leo women's lacrosse scored the game's final three goals and rallied for a 13-11 Sunshine State Conference win over visiting Florida Tech, Wednesday night at University Turf Stadium.
The win vaulted Saint Leo (9-7, 2-2 SSC) into the no. 3 seed for this weekend's inaugural Sunshine State Conference Women's Lacrosse Championship, where the Lions will face second-seeded Rollins College. Florida Tech (7-8, 1-3 SSC) earned the fourth and final tournament berth, and will face top-seeded Florida Southern in the semifinals.
Both semifinal matches will take place on Friday, April 24, at Bryant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla., with the Saint Leo-Rollins semifinal starting at 3:00 p.m. The second semifinal between Florida Tech and Florida Southern will follow at 6:00 p.m.
Freshman Katie Larson's goal with 5:37 left in regulation proved to be the game-winner for Saint Leo, after senior Alix Murray knotted the game at 11-11 just under two minutes earlier with her unassisted score.
Sophomore Emily Pittenger provided an insurance marker with a free position goal with 5:17 showing on the game clock, giving the Lions a little breathing room and letting Saint Leo come out on top in a second half defined by alternating scoring runs.
Trailing 7-5 at the intermission, Florida Tech scored four straight goals to open the second half. Caroline Dunleavy notched the first Panther goal of the frame, followed by Sara Grenier's natural hat trick of three straight goals to give Florida Tech a 9-7 lead.
Saint Leo junior Allie Sheftall struck twice on consecutive runs up the field, tying things up at 9-9 with 21:26 left in the game. Just 22 seconds later, senior Joanna Chadwick found of the back of the goal on a free position shot, extending the Lions' lead to 10-9.
Dunleavy and Heather Roache each added scores for Florida Tech in response, and the Panthers regained an 11-10 lead with 15:31 to play. Neither team was able to put a goal on the scoreboard for over eight minutes, setting the stage for the late flurry from Murray, Larson, and Pittenger to give Saint Leo the win.
The Lions appeared to have the game well in hand in the first half, after four consecutive Saint Leo goals by Kelsey Burns, Christina Minneci, and two by Pittenger allowed the Green and Gold to take a 6-2 lead with under 10 minutes in the frame. However Florida Tech notched three of the final four goals of the opening stanza, to make it a two-goal game at the break.
Sheftall and Pittenger each finished with three goals for Saint Leo, while seven other players added one goal each. In addition to each scoring a goal, Abbie Ross and Burns had chalked up an assist. Caroline Fraser tallied the Lions' final goal of the first half, with just 65 seconds left on the clock.
Senior Brittany Millsap and Kaylyn Kearns combined for nine saves in the Saint Leo goal, while Florida Tech goalie Stephanie Stuart charted 13 saves.
The Lions narrowly outshot the Panthers, 30-29, while Florida Tech had a 20-17 advantage in ground balls. Both teams struggled to find any sort of offensive rhythm through the 70 total fouls called in the contest, but Saint Leo managed to convert seven of its 15 free position attempts into goals – outpacing a Florida Tech squad that was 3-of-10 on free position attempts.
For more information on the Saint Leo women's lacrosse program, visit SaintLeoLions.com. Fans can also stay up-to-date on the latest Lions news by following Saint Leo Athletics on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.