Sara Grenier – Photo credit: James Ragan Photography

The number one-ranked Florida Southern Moccasins rode an 11-goal first half to victory on Saturday, beating the fifth-ranked Florida Tech Panthers 15-11, in a top-five showdown at Florida Tech Panther Stadium.

This game has been circled on the schedule for quite some time, as the Moccasins were responsible for three of the Panthers four losses last season, including their final loss in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, the hole the Panthers had to dig out of was just too deep.

“Our offense had it in the first half and our defense had it in the second half and when both sides play a full 60 that’s when you win,” said Panthers assistant Taylor Marshall after the game. “That’s what we were hoping for today and it just didn’t happen.”

Florida Tech (9-1, 0-1 SSC) was led by Sara Grenier who scored four goals on Saturday, including three consecutive tallies in the second half, to get her team back into the game. Grenier now has 36 goals this season and 198 for her career.

FSC’s Shannon Gilfedder had a hat-trick 7:19 into the game, adding an assist and Emily Santoli had three goals and two assists to lead the visitors to the win and improve their record to 10-0 overall, including 1-0 in the Sunshine State Conference.

Offensively, Florida Tech struggled to get good looks at Alanna Zambetti in the Moccasins cage, as the defense was smothering the Panthers for much of that first half.

“Their defense did take away a lot of our passing lanes and we didn’t move off ball enough,” said Marshall. “That’s something we have to work at on offense and on defense we’re working out some kinks.”

Gilfedder got the scoring started just 33 seconds into the game, beating Panthers netminder Stephanie Stuart. Caroline Dunleavy tied things up just over a minute later, but Gilfedder struck for back-to-back goals, giving her team a 3-1 lead. Marina Jozokos made it 4-1 before Dunleavy answered with her second of the day with 11:29 to go in the half, cutting the deficit to 4-2.

Grenier and Dunleavy would score between goals from Santoli and it was 6-4 with 9:48 to go in the half. FSC would score three consecutive goals before Aleah Fjelstad broke through to make it 9-5. Sam Schiano would score the final Panthers goal of the half, sandwiched between goals from Meghan O’Brien and Jozokos, accounting for the 11-6 score at the half.

Grenier did all she could do to bring her team back, scoring three goals in the first 6:40 of the second half, closing the gap to 11-9. A free-position goal from Sarah Grady broke the run and gave the Mocs’ a 12-9 lead. O’Brien would add another, before Mary Gormley made it 13-10, with 7:26 to go.

Shannon Mazza answered for Florida Southern and Alexis Townsend found the back of the net with 2:35 left, scoring the final Panthers goal of the night. Dani Bursinger capped the scoring for Florida Southern with her second of the night, with 1:35 to go in the game.

For more info: Florida Southern @ Florida Tech Box Score

“It wasn’t a bad game for us and it gives us some film to watch,” Marshall said. “We had some missed opportunities and if we put those away, we may have come out on top. Maybe next time we can seal those holes.”

Despite giving up 15 goals. Stuart deserves a lot of credit. This game could have been out of hand in a big hurry, but her 18 saves, 10 of those coming in the first half, kept the Panthers in this until the end.

“She played an outstanding game,” said Marshall. “She had our backs the entire time and it’s a bummer that the rest of our team couldn’t play the same way.”

Next up for the Panthers is a home matchup against the CSU-Pueblo Thunderwolves on Friday at 7:00 p.m.

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