The Florida Tech Panthers made it look easy Saturday night against first-year program Embry-Riddle, beating the Eagles 23-9 in a Sunshine State Conference game at Florida Tech Panther Stadium. This win was made more special by the fact that it was Senior Night.
“It was a lot of seniors and we got them all in and got them all minutes and we finished with all our seniors out there,” said Panthers coach Corinne Desrosiers. “When you can celebrate your seniors in that fashion, it’s good to be able to do so”
The Panthers 14-1, 4-1 SSC) set a new record for conference wins with this victory. They outshot the Eagles 35-16, with 31 of those shots on goal. The Panthers only turned the ball over eight times and were a perfect 15-for-15 on clears.
Florida Tech won the ground ball battle 18-16, while ERAU held a 17-16 advantage in draw controls.
The 14 wins match the Panthers total from last season, with one game to go in the regular season, plus any postseason games they play.
Senior Sara Grenier led the Panthers with five goals on Saturday, giving her 56 for the season. Fellow senior Caroline Dunleavy and junior Sam Schiano each notched four goals on the night, while senior Mary Gormley and sophomore Lauren Tybor each had a hat-trick.
Sophomore Alexis Townsend has found her scoring groove of late, as she netted two on Saturday, giving her 19 for the season. Sophomore Mollie Kaplan finished with a pair of goals and Aleah Fjelstad, another sophomore, rounded out the Panthers scoring.
Grenier took nine seconds to get the Panthers on the board and Dunleavy scored 21 seconds later, against ERAU starting goalie Mary Kreider. It was a short night for Kreider, who gave up five more goals, before being pulled 5:40 into the game after Tybor’s second of the night that gave the Panthers a commanding 8-2 lead.
Gormley scored back-to-back goals 1:16 apart against Skylar Mossup, giving the Panthers a 10-2 lead. After Grenier scored her second of the game, Dunleavy completed her hat trick with a goal just 9:38 into the contest and just like that, the running clock was in play, as the Panthers opened up a 12-2 differential.
Fjelstad and Grenier went 2:37 between goals and that meant a hat-trick for Grenier and a 14-2 lead for the Panthers with 16:08 left in the half.
Gillian Greenburg, who led the Eagles with four goals, tallied back-to-back markers against Panthers starting netminder Stephanie Stuart, to make it 14-4. After a goal by Townsend, Greenburg found the back of the net again with 7:55 to go in the first half.
Goals by Schiano and Tybor had a goal from Erin Breyenton sandwiched in between, with Tybor’s goal coming with 15 seconds left in the half. The Panthers were comfortably ahead at the break, 17-6.
Stuart, who was making her last regular season home start after four years with the Panthers finished the first half with two saves. She gave way to Chloe Zador in the second half but came back to play the final 5:30 of the game, following Grenier’s fifth goal of the game, that made it 22-8.
“Chloe’s ready,” said Desrosiers when asked about her goalie situation after this season. “What we see in games is a lot of Steph cause she’s been the goalie for four years, but what people aren’t seeing is how well they’re playing at practice and how many shots Chloe’s saved. She’s been working with Steph the last two years and she’s ready to step into the cage next year, we’re very proud of her.”
Zador made three saves of her own, including a one-on-one, point-blank shot off the stick of Mya Watson with 8:05 left in the game, that was a thing of beauty.
Townsend’s goal with 49 seconds left was the final one for the Panthers on this night.
For more info: Embry-Riddle @ Florida Tech Box Score
Stuart, who finished with three saves overall and reflected on Senior Night following the game.
“It’s tough, because there isn’t much for a women’s lacrosse player to do professionally after college, so it is tough to swallow that this is going to be my last time playing competitively,” she said. “We watched everyone else do it for the seniors last year, my freshman, sophomore and junior year, it’s like an awe feeling walking through the little tunnel they made for me and giving me the flowers.”
Stuart then took time to look back on her four years at FIT. When we came here freshman year we chose a team that was brand new and you throw a bunch of people together with no idea what to expect,” she said. “The fact that we are keeping the fifth rank in the nation is absolutely amazing. This kind of thing wouldn’t have happened unless we worked as a whole to achieve this.”
Coach Desrosiers was preparing for the day people like Grenier, Stuart, Gormley, and Dunleavy would leave and that will happen when this season does come to a close, but she feels the Panthers are very prepared.
“We have a very strong sophomore and junior class and we worked on the 2018 recruiting class way in advance,” she said. “Earlier than I ever like to recruit, but we locked down some really good players. We’ll be fine offensively, they’ll be young and inexperienced but we’re gonna kick their butts all fall and that’s that.”
As much as there was an eye toward the future in the questions to Desrosiers, the 2018 edition of the Panthers is far from done. They will finish the regular season at Saint Leo next Saturday, with the opening draw scheduled for noon. The following Friday starts the Sunshine State Conference Tournament.