Friday May 4, 2012Gators Edge Ohio State, 5-4; Will Play NU Saturday in ALC Championship Game
In an all-out defensive battle, the Florida Gators fought their way to the top, defeating No. 14 Ohio State, 5-4, in the American Lacrosse Conference Tournament Semifinals. Buckeye freshman Tori DeScenza made 15 saves in the game, but the Gators’ back line limited OSU to just nine shots on goal, to pull out the one-goal victory. With the win, the third-ranked Gators improve to 16-2 (5-0 ALC) and will face No. 1 Northwestern (17-1, 4-1 ALC) in the ALC Championship on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. NU’s only loss this year came to UF in Evanston just two weeks ago. Ohio State falls in the ALC Semifinals for the third time in four years, owning an 11-6 (1-4 ALC) record.
“What a great job Ohio State did,” said Head Coach Amanda O’Leary, “an incredibly well-coached program. We knew going into this game that they were going to have some tricks up their sleeve and they did. They kept us on our heels the entire game. Credit them with a really hard-fought game out there today. I’m just really pleased that we came out with a win tonight.”
After freshmen Nora Barry (Marcellus, N.Y.) and Shannon Gilroy (Northport, N.Y.) combined for six of the Gators’ 10 goals at Ohio State back in March, Barry and fellow-rookie Nicole Graziano (Mendham, N.J.) each put up a pair of goals this evening, while junior middie Brittany Dashiell (Bel Air, Md.) scored the remaining goal and notched two assists. Gabi Wiegand (Bay Shore, N.Y.) and Caroline Chesterman (South Nyack, N.Y.) tallied an additional assist apiece.
Junior defender Emily Dohony tied the Gators’ season high with six ground balls in the game, while Barry set a new single-season record in the game, notching five ground balls to break Dashiell’s 2010 record of 38, now owning 41. Shannon Gilroy nabbed three of the Gators’ seven draw controls, also setting a new season record with 63. Dohony and Dashiell anchored the UF back line that held the Buckeyes to just nine shots on goal, each causing three turnovers to contribute to the Gators’ season-best 11 forced TOs.
“I think we counted on our defense to come up with a lot of big plays,” O’Leary said. “We limited their offensive firepower and that was a spark. Ultimately, I credit this group because in years past, we may not have come out victorious in a game like this. They’re maturing, they have great leadership out there and they work really, really well together. They’re unselfish and with all of that and their maturity, it certainly made a difference tonight.”
Ohio State’s Alayna Markwordt broke through the Gators’ defense three times, and fellow-senior Gabby Capuzzi netted the Buckeyes’ final goal with just seven seconds left in regulation.
“Credit to Alayna,” Ohio State Head Coach Alexis Venechanos said. “She continues to have the best defender in the nation every game we play against. Credit to her she is able to continue to play her best and get her teammates involved. When she has the shots she will take the shots and she did a great job of reading that. Jamie Reeg did an excellent job on her, and Alayna still got her teammates involved and still was able to put some goals on the board for us.”
Tayler Kuzma led the Buckeyes with three ground balls and two caused turnovers, while Katie Chase snagged two of OSU’s four draw controls.
Netminder Tori DeScenza had a fantastic performance in goal, making 15 saves in 57:52, and Cailtin Hester had a quiet 2:08 in relief. Mikey Meagher (Liverpool, N.Y.) made five saves in the game to capture her eighth straight victory.
“I think their goalie (Tori DeScenza) played phenomenal,” said Florida attacker Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.) “She was able to stop us all over the place and she did a really awesome job. I think we were lucky enough to have people on our team this year like Nicole (Graziano), who can come off the bench, give us a spark and get some goals in there. I credit their goalie a lot; she did a really great job.”
Nora Barry got the scoring started at 20:48 in the first half, when Gabi Wiegand tossed a perfect pass from the left side to Barry in front of the net, earning the second-ever man-down goal for Florida. Alayna Markwordt evened the score on a wraparound goal just over a minute later, but Barry struck again, this time assisted by Dashiell, to put UF back ahead, 2-1.
The remaining 18:49 of the first half featured 13 shots and six turnovers but no more points on the board, as the Gators headed to the locker room holding a slight, 2-1, advantage.
The scoring drought continued another eight-and-a-half minutes at the start of the second half, until Caroline Chesterman found Dashiell breaking in towards the goal circle and lifted a perfect pass from the point to stun DeScenza with goal number three.
However, the Buckeyes were far from out of it, and at 16:46, Markwordt bounced in her second unassisted goal to cut the lead to one. Rachel Wiederkehr won the ensuing draw, and just 17 seconds later, Markwordt did it again, knotting the score at three.
The score remained tied for just over four minutes, when freshman Nicole Graziano dove through the 8-meter arc and laced in a hard line drive to give the lead back to the Gators, and less than two minutes later, Dashiell connected with Graziano for Florida’s fifth goal of the night, to give UF a small cushion to protect in the final 10 minutes.
The Gators’ back line kept the Buckeyes silent for close to 10 minutes, but with 48 seconds remaining in regulation, Jamie Reeg (Atlantis, Fla.) headed to the bench on a yellow card. After two shots by Ohio State, Florida seemingly gained possession of the ball, but a goal circle violation put it back in the Buckeyes’ hands, and with seven seconds left on the clock, Gabby Capuzzi cut the lead down to one, 5-4.
The stage was set for an Ohio State comeback, but freshman draw specialist Shannon Gilroy controlled the final draw and kept OSU from a chance at the game-tyer, as UF held on to win, 5-4.
The nine-goal combined score is by far the lowest in Florida history, surpassing the previous low of 15 met three times, most recently at Northwestern in the 8-7 victory two weeks ago. The Gators had been held to five goals twice before, but this was the fewest-ever scored in a UF win.
Florida returns to action on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. to face top-ranked, second-seeded Northwestern in a rematch of the 2011 ALC Championship game.
“Northwestern is a great team,” Cullen commented. “They’re No. 1 in the country for a reason. I think they’re going to be out to get us since we just beat them a few weeks ago. We’ve completely moved past that game and we're focused on tomorrow. We’re going to learn from and move past tonight and get ready for tomorrow and we’re going to focus on ourselves and get back to the basics.”
Florida has won the past two regular-season matchups, but the Wildcats edged the Gators, 10-9, in last year’s conference finals. The ALC Championship game will be streamed live for free on GatorVision and can be heard on local radio WRUF 850AM, with Cory Stephens, Mike Gillespie and Kailey Mizelle on the call.