The Saint Leo Lions escaped the Olin Complex in Melbourne on Saturday with a 16-13 victory over Florida Tech in a game that decided the Sunshine State Conference regular season champion.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Panthers coach Ryan McAleavey. “You’ve got number five and number nine in the country, it was a good lacrosse game the ball just didn’t bounce our way a couple times.”
The loss snapped the Panthers eight-game winning streak and accounted for their only conference loss of the season. Logan Sweeney‘s hat-trick led the Panthers scoring attack, while Tyler Covey finished with two goals and two assists. Carson Clough, Justin Williams, and Addison Abramson also tallied twice for Florida Tech.
Panthers goalie Daniel Flock made 12 saves in the game, but Saint Leo got to him for five goals in the decisive fourth quarter. Philip Buque and Jack Spera scored 13 seconds apart to give the visitors a 2-0 lead. Abramson and Williams answered for the Panthers, tying the game at two, with 7:26 left in the first quarter.
Goals by Jake Gilmour and Julian Taylor made it 4-2 Lions and after a goal by Sweeney, Taylor beat Flock again to make it 5-3 with 1:52 left in the quarter. Lions goalie Thomas Tatarian robbed Reid Chaconas of a goal with under 58 seconds left, ending the quarter with a two-goal lead.
After a goal by Anthony Visintin on the man-up made it 6-3, the Panthers went on a three-goal run as Abramson, Covey, and Sweeney each scored in less than three minutes time and just like that, it was 6-6.
Saint Leo (13-1, 7-0 SSC) answered with a four-goal run of their own and led 10-6, before Tajee Mobley broke up the run with 2:41 left in the half, closing the gap to three. Covey’s second of the day came with 1:42 to go and it was 10-8.
After a timeout by the Lions with 25.9 seconds left, Clough found the back of the net with 4.2 seconds to go and made it a one-goal game. The Panthers almost tied it at the break, but the ball hit the pipe at the horn, leaving it 10-9 at the half.
It took Williams just 20 seconds to tie the game at 10, and Sweeney followed that up with a goal to give the Panthers an 11-10 lead, 2:17 in. That was Sweeney’s hat-trick goal. The final goal of the quarter came off the stick of Daniel Sparks, tying things at 11.
Tatarian made saves against Clough and Sweeney in a span of 16 seconds, denying the Panthers the lead. Flock answered with a nice save of his own with 4:41 left and the quarter ended tied, leaving just 15 minutes to decide the game.
The Lions scored the first three goals in the fourth over the first 6:56 and led 14-11. Lance Pavlina won the ensuing faceoff following the third goal and rocketed one into the back of the net to make it 14-12 with 7:58 to go. Clough got the Panthers one goal closer 23 seconds later, but Gilmour sent the back-breaker past Flock with 6:45 to go.
Florida Tech (9-5, 6-1 SSC) had some good chances late, but their shots were either saved or wide. Charlie Kurtenbach gave Saint Leo a three-goal lead with 33 seconds left and with that, Saint Leo captured the Sunshine State Conference regular-season title.
“Saint Leo has a high-powered offense and they’re used to scoring a lot of goals,” McAleavey said. I’m happy with holding them to what we did and keeping it as close as it was, our offense could’ve put a couple more on the board but we just have to dial it in shooting wise and hopefully we’ll get to see them again next week.”
For more info: Florida Tech @ Saint Leo Box Score
Saint Leo will host the conference tournament by virtue of their win on Saturday. If Florida Tech is going to see them again, they will have to beat Tampa for the second time this season. The first meeting between the Spartans and Panthers was a barn-burner with the Panthers coming away with a 7-6 win and handing Tampa their first ever conference loss.
The semifinal matchup against the Spartans will take place Thursday, April 26, at 3:00 p.m. If the Panthers win, they would play for the SSC championship on Sunday.