Florida Tech Holds on for Victory at Saint Leo

SAINT LEO, Fla. Florida Tech scored five consecutive goals in the second quarter to take a 10-9 advantage at halftime and never surrendered its lead in the second half to knock off Saint Leo, 16-15, at University Field on Tuesday.

"[Saint Leo] beat us by 11 goals last year so it feels good to come here and get the win," head coach Ryan McAleavey said. "We just beat a good team. It is huge for us, and is a morale boast for our program."

Florida Tech (1-0, 1-0 DSC) trailed 8-5 after Saint Leo (0-1, 0-1 DSC) scored three unanswered goals to begin the second quarter. The teams were tied 5-5 through the first 15 minutes, and then the Panthers were held scoreless until 5:31 was left in the half.

Freshman Nick Gardner scored from the top of the offensive zone on a pass from sophomore Mike Marshner to cut the deficit to two goals, down 8-6.

Less than a minute later, sophomore Ryan Bailey scored his second goal of the game, finding the top right corner of the goal, on a pass from freshman Brian Bacarella. It was a man-up goal with 4:51 left in the quarter.

Bacarella continued FIT's scoring a minute later with an unassisted goal, his second of the game, to tie the game at 8-8. Then Gardner gave the Panthers their third lead of the first half, 9-8, on a pass from Andrew Conley.

With a 1:48 left in the second quarter, freshman Alex Carlson found sophomore Christian Isola on the left side for his second goal of the half to give FIT a 10-8 lead. It was a man-down goal that was created off a great save by junior goalie Eric Biller who then cleared the ball to Carlson running up the middle of the field. Biller finished the first half with seven saves.

The Lions scored before the half ended to give the Panthers a 10-9 lead at the break.

"These kids are determined," McAleavey said of his team's ability to erase the three-goal deficit. "The best thing about this team is that they all believe in each other and are all playing for each other."

FIT opened the second half with two consecutive man-up goals by Gardner and Matt Durand to extend its lead to 12-9. After a Saint Leo goal, Durand scored a second-straight goal for the Panthers to keep their lead at three goals, up 13-10, with 7:42 remaining in the third quarter.

The Lions answered with two-straight goals to cut FIT's lead back to 13-12 a minute later. But the Panthers responded again.

Conley scored FIT's next two goals and then Bacarella closed out the third quarter with his third goal of the game to give the Panthers a 16-13 lead heading into the final quarter.

"Offensively we are young, but we are fast and we have players that can handle the ball," McAleavey said. "When you have players that can handle the ball it is only a matter of time until you find the back of the net. And we did that."

Saint Leo kept FIT off the board in the fourth quarter, and was able notched two more goals to trail 16-15 with 4:52 remaining in regulation. But the Panther defense stood strong.

Biller made five of his 13 saves in the four quarter, including back-to-back saves with 1:15 left on the clock to stave off a Lions' comeback.

Saint Leo fired a final shot with less than a second remaining that went high, ending the game, to give the Panthers a season-opening victory.

"Eric Biller is a game-changing goalie," McAleavey said. "The saves he made were outstanding and are what kept us in the game."

Bacarella, in his first game in crimson and gray, led the Panthers with three goals and two assists, including the game-winning goal with 37 seconds left in the third quarter. Conley and Gardner also picked up hat tricks, while also collecting an assist each. Carlson contributed four points with a goal and three assists, while Isola, Durand and Bailey all scored two goals.

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