February 23, 2012

Florida Southern Debuts With Win in Inaugural Game

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Florida Southern coach Kara Reber is guiding the Sunshine State's newest women's lacrosse program through a tough Division II early-season schedule.
©Andy Meng/Stageshot Photography 

Lacrosse may still be a predominately Northeastern game but, as the recent accomplishments of the University of Florida and Rollins College prove, Northeasterners are not opposed to spending four years somewhere warm.

And those searching for the next point of Sunshine State success should look to Lakeland, Fla., where Division II Florida Southern's first-year program won its inaugural game, 18-16 over Lindenwood on Sunday.

The Mocs, who received multi-goal efforts from five players, were led by Maureen Cromer (four goals), Megan Asper (three goals, one assist) and Caitlin Chase (two goals, two assists).

"Starting out the tradition at the school with a win in our first game was very exciting," said Florida Southern coach Kara Reber. "I didn't really know what to expect. We could have gotten blown out of the water. I certainly didn't start out our schedule easy."

That's for sure. FSC's next opponent is No. 10 Mercyhurst on Saturday. Tough early-season competition is inevitable for a Florida program. Northern schools head south for spring break and there are only so many warm weather opponents. FSC will host No. 4 Lock Haven on March 13.

It's that allure of warm weather lacrosse that could make Florida Southern a contender sooner rather than later. The Mocs have 19 freshmen hailing from 11 different states, ranging from Rhode Island to Texas and, of course, Maryland.

Said Reber: "Maryland kids, they love Florida and they're good at lacrosse."

FSC's small size is another draw. The school has only 2,278 undergraduates.

"A lot of them originally thought they wanted to go to a big school," Reber said. "They really liked the personal experience they got through the admissions office. Now they can't believe they were even considering a big school. Teachers will pass them and know their name. The schools sells itself a lot."

And FSC is no hastily assembled first-year team where fliers were put up to lure volleyball and soccer players who never before had a stick in their hands. All but three players were recruited by Reber when she was brought on last fall. Juniors Mara Mason and Danielle LaDuca transferred in from two-time defending NJCAA champion Monroe CC. LaDuca had three goals against Lindenwood and Mason added a goal. Eight different players scored in the opener.

"We have a really balanced offense," Reber said. "I was telling one our freshmen this morning, nobody has to worry about getting their first college goal because everyone who went in on offense scored."

While the freshmen will do the bulk of the scoring -- Cromer, Asper and Chase are all first-year players -- FSC would not succeed without its four upperclassmen. LaDuca, Mason, sophomore goalie Katie Hammerer and sophomore defender Katie Gladhill, who transferred in from Division I High Point, are all starters and captains.

"It would be really hard if we didn't have anybody," Reber said. "Two girls from MCC have won two national championships, they can let the girls know what it takes to be successful. A Division I transfer knows what it takes to work hard. It certainly helps a ton."

With just enough veteran leadership the team also came together over a multitude of community service projects during the offseason. Recipients as varied as Locks for Love, local youth leagues, and a family that lost its home to a fire, found themselves benefitting from FSC's altruism.

"They've got a lot of pride in that," Reber, who previously coached at Division III St. Mary's and Lycoming, said. "Having done that sort of thing outside of practice, they really get along. It's probably the tightest group of players I've ever met."

Rollins Rolling

Florida Southern isn't Florida's only unbeaten team. No. 8 Rollins has jumped out to an early 3-0 record, rolling through St. Leo, 23-7 on Feb. 11, Belmont Abbey, 18-6 on Saturday, and Catawba, 22-2 on Sunday.

The Tars have been led by Sarah Ann Showell, who has 10 goals and one assist, and Cat Kelley, who has eight goals and five assists.

The road gets rougher for the Tars on Saturday, when they head to defending South Region champion Limestone in a battle between Division II's top two teams from south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

No. 3 Limestone opened up with a 22-0 blanking of Lees-McRae and an 18-4 victory over Lenoir-Rhyne. Freshman Sam McCarrick had six goals for the Saints over Lenoir-Rhyne and leads the team with eight goals this season.

Brigandi, DeVito on Tewaaraton Watch List

Adelphi and LeMoyne shared the top spots in the year's first IWLCA poll. Now each has a player on the Tewaaraton Watch List.

Adelphi's Erica DeVito is a three-time All-American who led the Panthers with 77 goals last season. Le Moyne's Brittany Brigandi had a program-record 87 goals last season.

Le Moyne hosts Notre Dame (Ohio) in its season-opener on Saturday. Adelphi starts a new era under coach Rob Grella March 1, at home against Molloy. Le Moyne heads to Adelphi on March 21.

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