By Zach Smith
The Florida Southern women’s lacrosse team is taking much of the lacrosse nation by storm after its early setbacks.
The team has dominated its recent nonconference schedule and won each of its last ten matchups.
The team’s current 10-game winning streak is tied as the second-longest winning streak in team history. The other winning streaks were in the 2012-2013 season (10 games) and last season’s national title run (14 games), which resulted in a national championship victory.
During the winning streak, head coach Kara Reber and her team have been dominant at both ends of the field. The offense has racked up a massive tally of 178 goals (just over 18 goals per game), and the defense has only allowed 89 goals (just under nine goals per game) and double-digit goals in just three of the nine games.
The team has stepped up its game in recent memory, but that would not be possible without multiple standout individual performances.
Sophomore midfielder Dani Bursinger tallied 22 draw controls, six ground balls and two caused turnovers in matches against Young Harris University, Queens College and Bloomsburg University. She also scored four goals and tallied three assists.
She was named Sunshine State Conference Defensive Player of the Week and the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Offensive Player of the Week for her standout performances. Both awards were career firsts for Bursinger.
Last year’s Inside Lacrosse Division II Player of the Year Emily Santoli has picked up right where she left off, scoring 19 goals and tallying 11 in the team’s recent good form, which includes a five-goal performance against Indiana University at Pennsylvania.
Santoli was also named a SSC Offensive Player of the Week during the team’s most recent run of success.
The beginning of the season was a rocky one for Reber and her team. After entering the season ranked atop the IWLCA standings, FSC was knocked off twice in its opening five matches to current No. 1 Adelphi University and No. 2 Lindenwood University.
Senior attacker Kendall Kerge said the pressure of being the preseason No. 1 put the team in an uncomfortable position right from the start. However, she said after losing early in the season, the pressure was lifted off the team’s shoulders.
“For the first couple of games of the season, we definitely went in thinking ‘oh my gosh we’re one, we have to stay at one and it’s the end of the world if we lose,’ so we played super frantic and didn’t play like ourselves,” Kerge said. “We are very used to being the underdog. Being in the underdog position again is definitely where we are the most comfortable, and that is where we get into our groove.”
Santoli said that a lack of chemistry between the players was another glaring issue that made life difficult in the beginning of the season.
One starting attacker and three starting defenders from last season’s national championship team left for graduation. To add insult to injury, Reber said this season’s defensive line lost several starters due to injury, which made adjusting to the new season even tougher. However, much like the team adjusted to the new sense of pressure, the team adapted and found what worked.
Despite the early losses, Reber said she refused to let herself and her team loathe. Instead, she wanted her team to understand that despite its early setbacks, the team now had room to rise.
“I don’t think they liked being at one, but hopefully they can see that as a goal they want to attain,” Reber said. “So, they will actually have something to strive for versus having the fear of ‘oh the only way we can go is down,’ and now they know have room to improve.”
As the team moves into Sunshine State Conference play, the team will be playing only one game per week. A busy nonconference schedule forced the team to play as many as three games each week, but it also allowed for the team’s great play in recent memory to continue with ease.
Moving into conference play, Santoli said she has no fear that the extended breaks will hurt the team’s momentum. Instead, she said she is pleased to have more time to practice and prepare for each opponent.
“I am thankful for the breaks because we still have our practices to lean on. We have one of the best teams in country, and at our practices, we are playing against better competition than we do in some games,” Santoli said. “So I think that it is not an easy day at practice, and Coach Reber is really good about devising a good plan for each team we play each week.”
Reber and her team are looking to continue to improve and extend their winning streak when they continue their home conference schedule against University of Tampa on April 8. The match is set to begin at 1 p.m.