LAKELAND, Fla. – For the first 10 minutes of the first half, Saint Leo women's lacrosse gave 11th-ranked Rollins all it could handle in Friday's first semifinal game of the 2015 Sunshine State Conference Women's Lacrosse Championship.
However two goals in the span of 10 seconds, followed closely by a second rapid-fire surge of three goals in three minutes allowed momentum to swing back in the Tars' favor, leading Rollins to a 15-3 win over Saint Leo at Bryant Stadium.
The win brought the Lions' season to a close with a 9-8 record.
Rollins advances to Sunday's inaugural SSC championship game against the winner of the second semifinal game between top seed and host Florida Southern and fourth-seeded Florida Tech. Sunday's title game will also be played at Bryant Stadium in Lakeland with a 1:00 p.m. start.
Sophomore Caroline Fraser was credited with an assist on Burns' first goal, a catch-and-release strike from the left of Rollins goalie Malorie Olin. Burns beat Olin with a shoulder-high shot from approximately five yards out, giving the Lions a 1-0 lead at the 25:31 mark of the opening half.
The Saint Leo goal was backed up by some solid defensive work by the Lions, who held Rollins to one shot on goal over the first six-and-a-half minutes: an attempt by the Tars' Megan Cury that was stopped by Saint Leo goalie Brittany Millsap.
However an ensuing turnover in the corner to the left of the Saint Leo goal set-up the Rollins offense, and led to Kristina Coppolino's score 13 seconds later into a virtually wide open goal, knotting the game at 1-1.
Ten seconds later, Coppolino beat Millsaps with a shot into the upper right corner giving Rollins a 2-1 lead.
Rollins took command of the game five-and-a-half minutes later, scoring three times in the span of just over three minutes. Tyler Thomas scored two of the Tar goals, extending the Rollins lead to 5-1 with 14:29 to play. The Tars tacked on five more goals over the remainder of the first half, including two in the final minute of the frame, and held a 10-1 lead at the half.
Minneci provided Saint Leo with a quick strike to open the second half, scoring unassisted on a bounce shot from approximately 10 yards out, cutting the margin to 10-2 with 26:03 to play in the game. After a score by Rollins' Cury 43 seconds later, Burns again reeled the Tars in by one goal with a score on a free position shot at the 22:36 mark of the frame.
That would cap Saint Leo's scoring for the game, while Rollins scored four more goals for the final 15-3 margin.
Coppolino finished with four goals and an assist for the Tars, while Thomas charted three goals. Cury and Amy Martin each scored twice for Rollins, while four other Tars added one goal apiece.
Rollins outshot Saint Leo, 32-12, including 24-8 advantage in shots on goal. The Tars also had a decisive advantage in ground balls (23-11) and draw controls (13-7).
Millsap and reserve goalie Kaylyn Kearns combined for nine saves in the Saint Leo goal. Olin recorded five saves over her 57 minutes in the net for Rollins, while Hannah Ricci came on for the final three minutes but did not record a save.