Panthers Prevail in Season Opener

Donny Rieber Jr | Sports Lowdown Sam Schiano – Photo credit: James Ragan Photography

The Florida Tech women’s lacrosse team opened their season in the win column Friday against Lenoir-Rhyne, picking up a 13-8 win over the Bears in Hickory, N.C. 

The victory marks the first win for new Panthers head coach McKenzie Rafferty.

Mollie Kaplan scored four goals for the Panthers including the final one of the game with just under 10 seconds remaining. Sam Schiano added a hat-trick, while Leah Dunn and Alexis Townsend tallied two each. Townsend was also credited with three assists, giving her a five-point night. 

Panthers goalie Chloe Zador made six saves, while her counterpart Teanna Sieben made 10. The Panthers took 30 shots against her. 

Florida Tech (1-0) got off to a quick start when Schiano found the back of the net one minute in.  Gia Colombo tied things up a couple minutes later, but the Panthers were able to bounce back in a big way, going on a five-goal run. 

Schiano made it 2-0 and Kaplan would score consecutive goals 25 seconds apart, giving the visitors a 4-1 lead with 24:25 left in the first half. Townsend assisted on both of Kaplan’s goals. 

Kailee O’Brien got a goal a couple minutes later and Townsend would score one of her own, upping the Panthers lead to 6-1. Cathleen Gaffney would score with 2:59 left in the half, cutting the Bears deficit to 6-2. 

The Panthers took 13 shots on goal in that first half, with 10 of them registering on goal. They were 9-of-13 on clears and got to seven ground balls. They held a 4-1 advantage on draw controls. 

Kaplan got her team going in the second half with a man-up goal 1:22 into the second half, with the assist to O’Brien. Hunter Cairo found Aleah Fjelstad less than a minute later, giving the Panthers an 8-2 lead. 

Gaffney would get her second of the game 30 seconds later, making it 8-3 and Schiano would answer that, giving the Panthers their six-goal lead back. Rachel Elmore would score back-to-back tallies, making it 9-5 with 22:38 left in the game. 

After Townsend’s goal made it 10-5, Elmore and Gaffney tallied, giving them both a hat-trick and taking a chunk out of the Panthers lead, which was now 10-7. Zador then faced two consecutive free-position shots from Gaffney with the first hitting the post with 7:43 remaining and making a save on the second one nine seconds later. 

Unfortunately for the Panthers Alyssa Sack made it even closer with her first goal of the game moments later, with an assist from Gaffney and all of a sudden it was 10-8 with 6:54 to go. 

Dunn didn’t find the scoresheet until there was 5:36 left in the game, but she enjoyed the first one so much that she ripped another past Sieben with three minutes left, giving the Panthers a 12-8 lead. Kaplan ended her big night with goal number four, with less than 10 seconds to go. 

For more info: Florida Tech @ Lenoir-Rhyne Box Score 

The Panthers out shot the Bears 30-18 with 23 shots on goal. The Panthers turned it over 20 times, while Lenoir-Rhyne had 27. Florida Tech made good on 22-of-26 clears and won the ground ball battle 18-13. Draw controls went in favor of the Bear 13-10 and draw controls were even at seven. 

The Panthers will try for the Carolina sweep on Sunday, when they take on Limestone in Gaffney, S.C. Opening draw is set for noon.