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Saturday March 5, 2011Dominant Second Half Gives No. 14 Lacrosse 15-10 Victory

Gainesville, Fla.

Behind a career-high nine saves from Mikey Meagher (Liverpool, N.Y.) and an explosion of offensive firepower in the second half, the No. 14 Florida lacrosse team came back from a 5-5 tie to defeat the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, 15-10, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Gators were led offensively by sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.) and sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns (Ellicott City, Md.), who scored four and three goals, respectively. Florida also had multi-goal performances by junior attacker Caroline Cochran (Annapolis, Md.), sophomore attacker Janine Hillier (Farmingdale, N.Y.) and sophomore midfielder Brittany Dashiell (Bel Air, Md.) with two apiece.

“The first half was a little slow start but I just hit a point where I was either going to keep letting it go on that way or I needed to turn it on fast,” Meagher said. “We knew they were a good team, so we knew we had to come out hard.”

The Orange and Blue did get off to a slow start in the first half, playing catch-up with the Mountain Hawks through the first 30 minutes. Lehigh’s Megan Kelly scored back-to-back goals within the first minute before Hillier found the back of the net three minutes into the contest. The Mountain Hawks scored from a free position to take a 3-1 lead before goals from Bruns and Cullen tied the game for the Gators. The two teams battled back and forth, finding answers to each other’s scores, taking a 5-5 lead into halftime as Dashiell scored with 36 seconds remaining in the half.

“I think it (the goal) gave us a bit of momentum heading into the second half,” Dashiell said. “The coaches talked to us during halftime and we got refocused and looked at the second half like a new game.”

The two teams were tied in nearly every statistical category at halftime, giving either team the opportunity to pull away in the second stanza.

“They’re a really good team and you can’t underestimate them,” Florida Head Coach Amanda O’Leary said. “They’re very well-coached, they have some great offensive players and they play to their strengths. They’re great 1-v-1 offensive players and they take advantage of those isolations and go hard at you. If you’re not ready to slide double-teams to them, you can find yourself in a deficit like we did.”

Lehigh looked to start the second half the same as the first, finding the back of the net within the first 30 ticks of the half. Cullen scored back-to-back goals to give Florida their first lead of the afternoon. Lehigh’s Lauren Dykstra, a WomensLacrosse.com Second Team All-American last season, scored for the Mountain Hawks to tie the game for the final time before the Gators went on a 3-0 run, sparked by Cullen’s fourth and final goal of the afternoon. Dashiell found sophomore midfielder Colby Rhea (Abingdon, Md.) in front of the net before scoring a goal of her own from Cochran, putting the Gators ahead 10-7. Lehigh would score again before Florida began to find their rhythm, scoring four straight goals, including back-to-back scores from Bruns.

The icing on the cake, however, was an end-to-end possession by sophomore midfielder Kayla Stolins (Glen Arm, Md.) with 12 seconds remaining in the contest. Stolins caused a turnover before scooping a ground ball and sprinting to the other end. She cut her way through the Lehigh defense and scored her first goal as a Gator. Stolins was also potent on the defensive end for Florida, causing two turnovers, while grabbing a draw control and a ground ball for the Gators.

Overall, the Gators outshot Lehigh 33-23 after being tied at 10 shots apiece at halftime. Florida was potent on the defensive end, winning 15 draw controls and 15 ground balls.

There’s no time to rest for the Gators, as Florida will play four games in nine days. Next on the slate for Florida is No. 7 Georgetown, who is coming off a 24-15 loss to No. 2 Northwestern on Saturday afternoon. Opening draw will be at 6:30 on Wednesday evening under the lights of Dizney Stadium. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Florida with Larry Vettel and former Gators assistant Jennifer Ulehla commentating for the first televised game of 2011. Fans can also listen on www.GatorZone.com with Andrew Suarez on the call.

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