The Florida Southern women’s lacrosse team has a 5-1 record as they aim to qualify for one of just three spots in the South Region of the NCAA tournament.
The Moccasins rolled through all but one of their opponents so far this season as the team looks to qualify for the preliminary round of the NCAA Division II Women’s Lacrosse Championship, set to begin on May 14.
The format of this year’s tournament, which has changed structurally in recent years, will once again be adjusted in the wake of COVID-19. This year, only 12 Division II teams will earn an opportunity to compete for the championship, in contrast to 16 last year, which was an expansion from 12 in the four years prior.
This season, the most important factor to the Mocs is that only three teams from each region will qualify for the tournament. Florida Southern, which competes in the South Region as a member of the Sunshine State Conference (SSC), is in the midst of competition for one of the spots.
The team has outmatched their opponents in all games but one this season. The Mocs defeated Florida Tech, Saint Leo, Tampa, and Palm Beach Atlantic to start the year before suffering their first loss of the regular season against Rollins. The team outscored their opponents by a combined rate of 67 goals scored to just 21 allowed, before the loss.
There’s a lot of factors that have contributed to Florida Southern’s success so far this season, with the team leading the conference in scoring the most goals per game, while also allowing the fewest goals per game.
“I would say there is not a weak area on our team at this point.” head coach Kara Reber said. “We have a girl on the draw who is fantastic, so that helps us get set-up for our offensive opportunities, we certainly have some great players that can finish really well on the offensive end, and we have a lot of experience back on the defense so that helps a lot,”
In the lone loss this year, the Rollins Tars beat Florida Southern 14-13, proving that they are also candidates for one of the three bids to the tournament.
As of April 24, although the schedule is subject to change, Florida Southern has just two games remaining in the regular season. Having been ravaged by injuries and COVID protocols that have prohibited some players from participating, the starting lineup could change on any given day.
“We just play with what we have and do what we can with the players we have available, trying to maintain a positive attitude and strong work ethic, and really just battling for everyone that’s able to play in that game,” Reber said.
Senior goalkeeper Brittany Iamele is looking forward to the rest of the season and hopes that it will include playing in the tournament.
“I think at this point in our season, every moment on the field counts. We recognize that the little victories both on the field and off are the difference makers,” Iamele said.
Three conferences altogether are competing for the three playoff spots, as despite the numerous talented teams in the Sunshine State Conference, some will be left out. Teams in the South Atlantic Conference (SAC) as well as the Gulf South Conference (GSC) will also be vying for a spot in the South region.
In both the SAC and GSC, there will be a conference tournament to determine a conference champion, which isn’t true for the SSC, leaving some grey area in determining who is most deserving of a playoff spot. It is presumed that the outright winner of the conference tournament in the SAC will qualify for the playoff, but with only five teams competing in the GSC this year, it’s unlikely that any team from that conference finds their way into the tournament.
A conference championship for any SAC team does not technically guarantee a bid into the national tournament, but it would make the most sense for the selection committee to choose that team to continue competition. In the SSC, the debate will come down to three teams—the Rollins Tars, Tampa Spartans, and Florida Southern Mocs.
The Spartans have bested the Tars, the Tars have beaten the Mocs, and the Mocs have beaten the Spartans. Each team has just one loss, and as of today, the teams won’t play each other for the remainder of the season.
“I think the one loss that we had hurt us more than it ever would in a normal year. We’re trying to control what we can control and we need to win out here the rest of the way and hope that’s enough for us to be selected,” Reber said.
Another nuance in the anticipation leading up to the NCAA tournament is that Florida Southern was just announced as the host site for the preliminary round scheduled for May 14 and May 16, regardless of whether the home team even makes the tournament.
Iamele, who was on the roster when the team last made the NCAA championship game in 2018, is looking forward to the prospect of playing at home this season.
“It’s an exciting moment for sure,” Iamele said. “Especially with the NCAA tournament not taking place last year due to the pandemic, I think our team is really excited for the future that this year can hold.”
“We would love nothing more than to be able to make the regional and be able to play at home. I think being able to stay in the comfort of your own bed and near the team that you’re used to and not have to travel is a great advantage for us. We just need the opportunity to play here,” Reber said.
Selections for the 2020-21 NCAA DII Women’s Lacrosse Championship will be announced on Sunday, May 9th via web stream on NCAA.com.