March 7, 2013

Southern Success the Early Story in WD2 Scene

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Florida Southern senior Danielle LaDuca represents an asset that separates the Mocs from most other second-year programs: veteran players with championship experience. She won a pair of JuCo championships.
© Andy Meng Stageshot Photography

Pay no attention to the second-year team in the corner of the country. Yes, Florida Southern just beat Stonehill and Gannon, but did you hear about Pfeiffer? Just knocked off Le Moyne. And how about Rollins and that undefeated start?

The South is rising in the early Division II season, but Florida Southern is content to keep its head down and fly under the radar. It’s working well so far.

“We still play the dumb card,” said Florida Southern coach Kara Reber. ”We’re just a second-year program. [Against Stonehill] we went in there like, ‘We don’t have anything to lose. This is their game to lose.’”

But, whether they realize it or not, the Mocs are not your average second-year team. Last season they went 12-4 and scored victories over Lindenwood, Mercyhurst, Belmont Abbey and Queens. This year the IWLCA rewarded them with a preseason No. 15 ranking.

They fell out of the Top 15, and off the radar, last week after losing to Pfeiffer 11-6. Then, back in the position they relish, the Mocs played themselves right back onto the radar with a 16-12 win over No. 7 Stonehill on Monday and an 18-10 victory over No. 13 Gannon on Wednesday.

Against Stonehill, FSC never trailed and led by as much as 10-5 late in the first half, when a 4-0 Stonehill run cut it to 10-9. The Mocs dug in and closed out the game. Against Gannon, they trailed 1-0 and 4-3, but took the lead for good, at 6-5, with six minutes remaining in the first half.

In the two victories, Caitlin Chase piled up 10 goals and seven assists and Danielle LaDuca combined for eight goals and one assist. The two performances underscore the dichotomy that makes Florida Southern so successful.

Chase is a sophomore and led the team in assists as a freshman. She's one of nine sophomores on the roster, a class that provides the bulk of Florida Southern's scoring.

LaDuca, a senior, represents the asset that separates Florida Southern from most other second-year programs: veteran players with championship experience. LaDuca, Marissa Masello and Mara Mason all won JuCo championships with Monroe CC in 2010 and 2011.

"They kind of push everyone and give that extra effort," Reber said. "This year, I've seen that a lot more. That could be a difference."

The immediate impact from the initial class illustrates another reason why Florida Southern might prefer to stay under the radar. Win or lose, girls want to attend school in Lakeland, Fla., smack between Disney World and the Gulf of Mexico. The current freshman class had signed on before the Mocs even played a game last year.

They came for the weather, they'll stay for the top notch lacrosse. That strategy could have worked forever. History is filled with people heading to Florida in search of hidden treasures.

But the rest of Division II will find out about Florida Southern, because many of the best teams will play the Mocs this year. Limestone and Rollins loom in the final week of the regular season. Games against established teams like Shippensburg, Merrimack and Seton Hill fill the schedule until then. FSC won't take those games lightly.

"I still feel like every game we go into as underdogs," Reber said. "Even if we get back in the Top 15. I don't care if our opponent isn't ranked. They've been around."

Indeed, when Stonehill won the national championship in 2006, there weren't any NCAA lacrosse teams in Florida. But on Monday, the new team on the block won the game.

It’s refreshing that the Mocs aren’t letting success go to their heads. But whether they like it or not, they won’t be able to fly under the radar for much longer.

Games of Last Week

Le Moyne 7, Limestone 6
Pfeiffer 10, Le Moyne 8

Le Moyne is located in Syracuse, so the Dolphins trip through the Carolinas this week had no actual impact on the South playoff race — but it sure shook up the region.

On Monday, the Dolphins beat Limestone, 7-6, handing the Saints (4-1) their first loss of the season.

Limestone led 6-3 late in the second half but a goal from Claire Monnat, two straight from Kathleen Conese and the game-winner from Kaitlyn Armstrong with 2:26 remaining sealed it for Le Moyne (2-1).

That result wouldn’t shake up any rankings. Le Moyne would stay at No. 2, Limestone at No. 6. A 7-6 result between two Top 10 teams doesn’t shake things up. Someone had to win.

Pfeiffer snuck into the poll this week, at No. 14, on the heels of its victory over Florida Southern. After shocking Le Moyne on Wednesday, the Falcons will surely shake up the coaches’ poll in a bigger way next week.

Against Le Moyne, Carly Garrison had four goals, including the go-ahead score to make it 7-6 with 16:16 remaining as Pfeiffer moved to 6-0 for the first time in program history. Garrison’s goal was the first of four straight to run Pfeiffer’s lead to 10-6. Le Moyne’s Brenna Bauer and Kelly Condon each scored late in the second half to keep it close, but Pfeiffer held on.

In the end, this says more about Pfeiffer being a contender than any other team not being one. The victory was the Falcons’ second this season over a ranked opponent and the biggest in program history.

Pfeiffer hasn’t had a losing since Dawn Easley became head coach in 2009. Two years ago it went 12-6 and lost to Limestone 7-6 in the regular season. In the Carolinas, where Limestone has ruled for years, that counts as a successful season. Even if Limestone does again emerge as the best in Conference Carolinas, there’s a fourth playoff spot this season. The past two weeks prove Pfeiffer will be in that conversation.

Pfeiffer’s next big test again comes out of region, on March 16 against New Haven. The Falcons face Limestone on April 6.

Limestone is still undefeated in-region. The Saints downed Mercyhurst of the PSAC last Thursday. They have another big PSAC game on Saturday against Gannon.

Le Moyne starts its NE-10 season Saturday at Merrimack.

Looking Ahead

Dowling at New Haven, Saturday

As for a game that could end up impacting the playoff race look no further than New Haven this Saturday, where the eighth-ranked Chargers (0-0) host No. 10 Dowling (1-0).

Dowling opened with a 21-3 thrashing of Wilmington. Nicole Moran led the Lions with four goals and four assists in that one. New Haven opens its season Thursday against Molloy.

New Haven blew past Dowling 21-10 last season, but the Chargers graduated several key players from last season’s squad, including all-time point leader, Ashley Ferrandiz.

Dowling reached an NCAA tournament in 2011 back when only three teams received bids. New Haven would have been a very serious contender in 2012 if four teams reached the tournament. Saturday will be the first chance this season for each team to boost its postseason resume.

Game Balls

Amy McNeil, Assumption
McNeill tied a school record with eight goals and one assist in the Greyhounds’ 16-11 victory over Merrimack on Saturday, the first time Assumption (2-0) has ever beaten Merrimack (0-1). McNeil followed that up on Monday with another eight-goal game, including two straight scores to win it in the second overtime, as Assumption held off Grand Valley State 13-12.

Taylor Martello, Queens (N.Y.)
Martello, a transfer from Nassau CC, made her presence known in her Queens College debut, netting six goals and two assists as the Knights (1-0) cruised past Findlay 19-3 on Saturday.

Genevieve Stickney, St. Thomas Aquinas
Stickney scored five goals, including the game-winner in overtime as STAC took down Dominican 17-16 on Saturday. It was the second goal of overtime for Stickney who leads the unbeaten Spartans (4-0) with 18 goals.

Miscellaneous

After edging Stonehill by one — and letting nine out of 10 LaxMagazine.com “Ten2Watch” prognosticators breathe a sight of relief — on Saturday, Rollins avenged its last regular season loss with a 19-9 victory over Regis on Monday... Notre Dame (Ohio) handed Shepherd (4-1) its first loss of the season, 13-12 on Friday. Jill Dixon scored her only goal of the night to win it with 5:38 to go... In Conference Carolinas, Lenoir-Rhyne ended Belmont Abbey’s three-game winning streak, 13-12, on Saturday. Mary Minick had four goals including the eventual game-winner for L-R, which plays at Rollins next.

Mark Macyk has covered NCAA Division II and III women’s lacrosse for Lacrosse Magazine and LaxMagazine.com since 2011. He can be contacted at markmacyk@gmail.com.


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