GatorZone.com Senior Writer
Mission not accomplished.
All Gilroy did in the best game of her young college career was rattle the net, scoring half of Florida's goals in a 14-7 win over the Wildcats for the American Lacrosse Conference Tournament title.
Gilroy's career-high seven goals came against a Northwestern team that was surrendering just 6.9 goals per game. Florida earned its first ALC Tournament championship and snapped Northwestern's streak of seven consecutive titles in large part thanks to one of the most impressive games by a single player in the program's three-year history.
"It was amazing, actually,'' Florida head coach Amanda O'Leary said. "She dominated the draw. And then to be able to score at the other end just says a lot about her athleticism."
Wildcats defender Kerri Harrington and others did their best to get into Gilroy's head – they tried to even face-guard her at times, something Gilroy said she had yet to experience in college – but nothing worked.
Gilroy scored back-to-back goals after the Wildcats tied the game 1-1 in the first half, a lead Florida never relinquished. She scored two more goals later in the first half, including one with 10 seconds left to put the Gators up 7-3 at halftime. The goal came only 10 seconds after a Northwestern goal stalled some of Florida's momentum.
In the second half Gilroy added three more goals to erase any chance of the Wildcats making a comeback at Dizney Stadium.
"I think Shannon did a tremendous job actually on the draw, directing it to where she wanted it to go. She was pretty much handling our draw people,'' Northwestern coach Kelly Hiller said. "She is just so poised. She is a great threat on the field. She just always puts her shots away. She was really a key person for them all over the field, starting with the draws all the way down to riding defensively to coming up with goals."
In her first season at UF out of Northport (N.Y.) High, Gilroy said she once scored 10 goals in high school, ranking as her best scoring day on a lacrosse field.
But considering the stage on Saturday, Gilroy has a new "career day" to talk about.
"I like the seven now against the top team,'' she said. "That's fine with me."
"Shannon is excellent at what she doe,'' O'Leary added. "She's a draw specialist."
Gilroy's previous career-high for goals at UF was five, set on April 1 against Penn State.
She managed to find the net consistently on Saturday by winning draws, finding open teammates who then got the ball back to her in good scoring position, and hitting the target.
She did it despite a constant stream of chatter directed at her from Northwestern defenders.
"I couldn't even tell you [what they were saying],'' Gilroy said. "I tried to just block it out. This sport is really, really competitive and teams will do anything to get into your head. I just tried to play my game and my teammates tried to play their game when they were face-guarded."
The Gators scored big in that department.
"I just tried to pick my spots better than [Friday], because yesterday was an off day for all of us,'' Gilroy said of Florida's 5-4 win over Ohio State in the semifinals. "We just really had to work on our shooting today and finish our shots."
--Gators goalkeeper Mikey Meagher was named the ALC Tournament Most Valuable Player.
Meagher had nine saves on Saturday and allowed just 11 goals combined in the wins over Ohio State and Northwestern.
"Their goalie played tremendous,'' Heller said.
Meagher shared the award with her teammates.
"This is definitely shared with my team, because the win wouldn't have happened without the defense, without Shannon,'' she said. "It's really a team effort, not an individual award, but I am very happy to receiver the award."
--The Gators lacrosse team is one of fastest in school history to win a conference title, accomplishing the feat in only its third season. The UF soccer team won the SEC in its second season (1996) and the Gators softball team won the SEC regular-season title in its second season (1998).
--Northwestern senior attacker Shannon Smith, who entered the game with a team-leading 60 goals, failed to score a point for the first time in 62 games.
Florida defender Jamie Reeg often matched up on Smith in a stellar defensive performance.
"That's a good stat,'' O'Leary said when told of Smith's scoring streak coming to an end. "I think Jamie is a tremendous defender. We typically put her against the best crease attacker we're going to come across. She can cover a lot of grab and she is just very smart."
--O'Leary gave the crowd a hand at the end for their support of the tournament, the first time Florida has hosted the event.
"I'd like to thank all the fans,'' O'Leary said. "Last night we had over 1,000 fans here. It was just such an amazing momentum builder for us, to be able to walk out on that field and see all of our fans out there.
"It just made me really proud to be a Florida Gator today. I'd just like to thank the fans and the community."