The sixth-ranked Tampa Spartans were able to beat a very determined Florida Tech squad on Wednesday, taking down the Panthers 11-6 in a Sunshine State Conference women’s lacrosse contest at Panther Stadium.
“I’m not disappointed in the score at all,” said Panthers coach McKenzie Rafferty. “They are the sixth-ranked team in the country and I think that we battled really hard and I am extremely proud of the way these girls played.”
Sam Schiano supplied most of the Panthers offense, scoring four goals. Alexis Townsend and Leah Dunn had the other tallies. Dunn got an assist as well, feeding Townsend on her first-half goal.
Florida Tech (5-6, 0-2 SSC) had 21 of their 23 shots go on cage. Each team turned the ball over 18 times, and Tampa held a slim 22-19 advantage on ground balls. Draw controls were 10-9 in favor of the Spartans.
Florida Tech goalie Chloe Zador played well in this one, coming up with seven saves. She made a couple of key saves in the second half, keeping the Panthers in the game. Zador’s counterpart Bridget Sutter deserves a lot of credit, as she came away with 15 saves for the Spartans. She was definitely the difference in the game.
Tampa (9-2, 2-0 SSC got off to a fast start, getting up 4-0 in the first 7:23 of the contest. Schiano answered with back-to-back goals 1:33 apart, cutting UT’s lead in half. Caroline Forester and Carly Vaccaro got those goals back for Tampa, and it was 6-2 with 11:54 left in the first half.
Schiano’s hat-trick goal came 49 seconds after the Vaccaro goal, trimming the lead to three. After another Tampa goal made it 7-3, it was Townsend who beat Sutter to make it 7-4 with 4:54 left in the first half. Neither goalie would allow another score before the break.
Schiano’s fourth of the night came 3:30 into the second half and just like that, the Panthers were in it, looking at a 7-5 deficit. Unfortunately for Florida Tech, the Spartans scored the next three and doubled their lead to 10-5.
“We are a very small team so we don’t have the amount of subs other teams have,” Rafferty said. “So coming out I know my girls were tired. That’s gonna happen, but I think overall the defense matched up pretty well, and yeah, a few scooted by Chloe, but I’m not upset about it.”
The defenses stepped up from there, as neither team got another goal for the next 10:07. Dunn’s 27th of the year broke that drought and made it 10-6. Maggie Gladden’s hat-trick tally was the final goal of the night, and that made it 11-6 with 25.5 seconds left in the game.
Schiano was down for a bit after that goal and had to be helped to the sideline, but coach Rafferty said after the game that it was just basically a charlie horse and Schiano would be fine.
For more info: Tampa @ Florida Tech Box Score
The effort from the Panthers was definitely there against a very tough team. Earlier in the year, this game may have gotten out of hand, but Rafferty said the team was able to work on things during their time off and the improvement was definitely noticeable.
“They wanted to be on the field, they played as a team, they played good lacrosse and I’m extremely proud of them,” Rafferty said. “It’s taking all the skills we’ve worked on for the past week and working on ourselves, and it really showed.”
Rafferty hopes that her team will use what they did in this game as a confidence builder for Saturday’s game at Rollins.
“I think they will be pumped, I think this gave them a lot of validation in their play and I’m excited to play on Saturday,” she said. “I think it will be a good game.”
Saturday’s opening draw is set for 7:30 p.m. in Winter Park.