The 1999 Florida Southern Moccasins were among the best men's soccer teams the school has ever had, and their 13 wins remain the school record. That season fell right in the middle of a five-year run that saw them win 57 games under former Florida Southern goalkeeper Kris Pahl, who established the Moccasins as a power in the South Region and had them in contention for NCAA postseason play for the first time in many years. There were many memorable games during those five years, both at home and away, but one that stands out occurred on September 28, 1999, in a battle of nationally ranked teams involving Florida Southern and Lynn.
Lynn University had been a powerhouse at the NAIA level for many years before joining the Sunshine State Conference in 1996. The Knights' move to NCAA Division II did nothing to change that. In their two years as provisional members of the conference, the Knights reached the Division II national semifinals in 1996 and were national runner-up in 1997. In 1998, their first year of full SSC membership, the Knights went undefeated through the regular season before they were upset by USC-Spartanburg in the South Region Championship Game. Tampa and Florida Tech had been the big dogs in the SSC for a long time, but now there was a third one on the block, and the Mocs had already shown they could go toe-to-toe with Lynn the previous two seasons.
Their 1997 encounter at Barnett Field in the regular season finale was a war eventually won by the Knights 2-1, and the 1999 match was highly anticipated before the season even began. It lived up to the billing too, as both teams came into the contest nationally ranked and the Moccasins were undefeated. On hand were an estimated 600 fans, far more than the bleachers could accommodate, with the remainder spread out on blankets, lawn chairs, or standing wherever they could find room. At the time, it was the largest crowd to ever see a soccer game at Barnett Field in its current configuration, though an estimated 900 once saw the Mocs beat Stetson in the final game of 1963 with a different layout.
The Moccasins had started the 1999 season with a 6-0-1 record, and after a 4-3 win over Embry-Riddle in game one, they had not allowed more than one goal since. A 3-0 win at Tampa a week before the Lynn match had pushed Florida Southern up to 18th in the national poll, its highest ranking ever up to that point, and Lynn came to Lakeland with a 6-1-1 record, ranked No. 4 in the country. Both teams had conceded only six goals in the early going.
It had been almost three full games since Florida Southern had conceded, but Lynn scored a little over five minutes into the team when Dean Wilson came up with a loose ball just across the midfield stripe and threaded a perfect pass down the middle for Ian Irving. The freshman forward connected on a shot from the top of the penalty box into the upper reaches of the net for his first goal of the season. The Mocs nearly answered three minutes later when defender Luke Miller missed the upper corner from 35 yards out by inches.
After that, the game settled into a defensive stalemate until the 30th minute when Moccasin goalkeeper Johan Linell made a pair breath-taking saves to keep it a 1-0 game. Shortly thereafter, the Mocs again came within inches of tying the game when a shot by Alex Myers on a quick counterattack beat Lynn goalkeeper Matt Nelson. With players from both teams either on the ground or too far away to factor into the action, the Moccasins and Knights could only watch as the ball rolled slowly toward the open net, only to trickle just wide of the mark.
The Knights took their 1-0 lead into halftime, and the two sides played evenly for the first 35 minutes of the second half. The Mocs then put together a string of scoring chances in the final 10 minutes that included a chip shot by Ken Praay that Nelson grabbed underneath the crossbar, and a rocket by Ahmad Belfon off the near post with just under five minutes to play. The Knights were under constant pressure by the Mocs for the final five minutes but managed to hold them off to protect a 1-0 win.
Florida Southern had been a matter of inches away from taking down the No. 4 team in the country, out-shot Lynn 7-5, and again showed why it was one of the nation's best Division II teams of the late 90s. The Moccasins ended that year 13-5-2, setting the school record for wins with a 3-1 victory at Eckerd in their final game of the season.
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