Great goaltending by Stephanie Stuart and four goals from Sara Grenier, helped the Florida Tech Panthers hang on for a 13-11 victory over the Limestone Saints on Friday, in the NCAA South Region Semifinal game in Lakeland, FL. The win puts the Panthers in the regional final against Florida Southern tomorrow (Saturday) at 3:00 p.m.
Stuart likely saved the Panthers season with her 13 saves, nine of which came in a second half that saw Limestone turn it up a notch on offense before the clock ran out on their season.
Sam Schiano, Caroline Dunleavy, and Alexis Townsend each scored two goals, while Brittney Embree Mary Gormley and Aleah Fjelstad added single tallies.
The Saints (17-3) came out firing early, scoring three of the first four goals. Caitlyn Nemeth got things started before Schiano answered for the Panthers. After Stuart made a nice save, Shannon Sisk made it 2-1 Limestone.
Stuart made another great save moments later, but the rebound was picked up by Taylor Blick and she went high on Stuart to make it 3-1 and forced Panthers head coach Corinne Desrosiers to call a timeout. Kendra Sheppard would score again for Limestone with 16:35 to go in the half and just like that, it was 4-1.
FIT (17-2) has been a team that scores in bunches all season and this game would be no exception. They stole the momentum from Limestone almost immediately, ambushing goalie Jenna Haring with six straight goals.
Dunleavy, Grenier, and Schiano scored in less than a five-minute span to tie the game. After Gormley gave the Panthers their first lead of the day 5-4, Grenier got her second of the day, giving the Panthers a two-goal cushion. Fjelstad scored the final goal of the first half for the Panthers with 6:36 to go.
A goal from Britannie Ouimet made it 7-5 and she would hit the crossbar a couple minutes later. Nemeth then hit the post with about 50 seconds left. Those were big misses for Limestone, as converting either of those could have made this a much different game.
As it was, the Panthers finished the first half on a 6-1 run. Limestone outshot Florida Tech 15-12 in that first half, with Stuart and Haring coming up with four saves each.
Stuart started the second half by robbing Nemeth 3:02 in and Grenier rewarded her goalie on the next possession, as she scored her hat trick goal with 24:50 left, making it 8-5. Stuart followed that up with two huge saves in 19 seconds, turning away Julia Foster and Ouimet in succession.
One minute after the save on Ouimet, Dunleavy scored her second of the day, giving the Panthers a four-goal lead, 9-5. Moments after Stuart made a save on Sheppard, Grenier found the back of the net for the fourth time and the Panthers doubled up Limestone 10-5 with 22:08 to go.
Townsend would score back-to-back goals, finishing off a five-goal run for the Panthers and stretching their lead to 12-5. Goals from Sheppard and Ouimet made it 12-7 before Embree scored the final Panthers goal of the game.
Limestone did not go quietly, scoring the final four goals of the game.
Foster and Nemeth scored 20 seconds apart and goals from Sisk and Lauren Chong made it 13-11 with 2:47 to go. Stuart would keep it there, as she saw Nemeth hit the post with 1:54 left and then made her final save of the night on an Anna O’Donnell shot with 1:45 to go, sealing the victory.
For more info: Limestone @ Florida Tech Box Score (South Region Semifinal at Lakeland)
The win sets up the third meeting of the season between Florida Tech and number one seed Florida Southern. The Moccasins won both prior meetings, first at Florida Tech on March 24, then in Lakeland on April 29, in the Sunshine State Conference title game. You can watch tomorrow’s NCAA South Region Final here.