Stetson Lacrosse is here. It was been a long time in the making, but on Sunday, February 10, the Stetson lacrosse program played its first game. After a reception for the inaugural team at the new Athletic Training Center, and a presentation of the First Game Ball by University President Dr. Wendy Libby and Director of Athletics Jeff Altier, the Hatters (0-1) fell 16-3 to Liberty (1-0).
The result may not have been exactly what Stetson was looking for, but the momentous occasion was enough to create excitement for everyone involved with Stetson Athletics, as well as all of those fans watching at the Athletic Training Center or online.
"The feeling was great," Assistant Coach Brittany Dipper said of being a part of the first game. "We had a great turn out from fans. The girls were really excited. They started in the locker room, it continued onto the field, and they were very proud of themselves and the program. It was just an awesome feeling all around."
If the energy before the contest even began wasn't high enough, two momentous plays less than 10 minutes into the game cemented the day as one to remember. When Liberty was awarded a free position attempt less than a minute and a half into the game, the Flames' shot attempt was stopped by Stetson's Whitney Meyers, recording the first ever save in Hatter history.
The two teams battled back-and-forth before Stetson made history once again. It was the Hatters gaining the advantage on a free position this time, and Melanie Fredericks put her name in the record books by capitalizing on the opportunity and scoring the first goal in Stetson Lacrosse history. Her score put the Hatters up 1-0 with 20:55 to play in the first half.
"Everyone was really happy," Fredericks said of scoring the first goal. "I thought my teammates were going to knock me over. I think they actually did. [This first game] is a start, we just have to build off of it, and we'll see where the season takes us."
Liberty countered with a goal of its own less than a minute later, and went on to score five straight to take a 5-1 lead with under 10 minutes to play in the first half. It was then Samantha Akl's turn to put the Hatters on the board. The sophomore scored with 3:25 remaining in the period to cut the Flames' lead to three, at 5-2. One minute later Liberty countered with a goal to take a 6-2 lead into halftime.
The Hatters came out of the break energized, and it was once again Akl finding the back, scoring on a free position to cut the Liberty lead to 6-3. The Flames, who were picked to finish fifth in the Big South this season, rattled off 10 straight goals to end the game, and leave DeLand with the 16-3 victory.
Liberty outshot Stetson 31-21 in the game, and recorded 17 ground balls to the Hatters' 12. Each team turned the ball over 15 times in the contest. The Flames won 13 draw controls and Stetson earned just seven.
Meyers finished the contest with 10 saves, while Liberty's Kristen Masullo totaled 14 in the victory. Akl and Fredericks scored for the Hatters, and it was Jen Freymond leading the Flames with four goals in the win. Morgan Becker added three goals and an assist, and Sam Struss tallied two goals and three assists.
"We definitely found out some of our strengths and some of our weaknesses this game," Akl said. "In the upcoming week I definitely think we're going to be working on capitalizing on our strengths and focusing on our weaknesses."
Stetson will be back in action on Sunday, Feb. 17, hosting San Diego State at the Athletic Training Center. The game is scheduled to start at 11:00 a.m. and will be streamed live on GoHatters.com.