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Friday May 25, 2012Florida Lacrosse Drops Heartbreaker in NCAA Semifinal to Syracuse, 14-13, in Double-Overtime

Stony Brook, NY

The Florida lacrosse team had its season come to a heartbreaking end on Friday night in the NCAA Semifinals, falling in double-overtime to Syracuse, 14-13, at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium in Stony Brook, N.Y. The Gators finished the season with a 19-3 record and the program’s first-ever appearance in the Final Four.

 

“Congratulations to Syracuse [on advancing to the title game],” said head coach Amanda O’Leary. “It was a great game and a game of runs. They scored when it counted and had a fantastic comeback. We knew they wouldn’t give up and they competed hard. I’m proud of my team and proud of our season as this is just the third year of the program.”

 

After playing to a 13-13 tie in regulation, neither team was able to score a goal in the first overtime, although Florida’s Gabi Wiegand (Bay Shore, N.Y.) appeared to net a possible game-winner with nine seconds left before Syracuse called for a stick check. Officials deemed that Wiegand’s stick was illegal and the goal was taken off the board, forcing a second overtime period and sudden-death scenario.

 

“[The stick check was] a smart play by Syracuse,” said junior captain Brittany Dashiell (Bel Air, Md.). “We couldn’t do anything about it; just keep playing and try to get the next ground ball, the next draw control.”

 

For the second time this season, Florida and Syracuse needed a second overtime to decide the winner. On March 3, the Orange held off the Gators, 12-11, in Gainesville, UF’s last loss entering tonight’s semifinal matchup. Unfortunately for Florida, the result was no different this time around, as Syracuse’s Sarah Holden scored the game-winner 58 seconds into the sudden-death period, securing the Orange’s first-ever berth in the title game.

 

Holden led Syracuse with four goals on the night, while Alyssa Murray and Michelle Tumolo each had three goals. The Orange outshot Florida, 43-24, and held a 19-6 advantage in ground balls. Both teams finished with 16 draw controls.

 

Freshman Shannon Gilroy, from nearby Northport, N.Y., led the Gators with five goals and an assist on the night and Dashiell added four goals and three ground balls. Goalie Mikey Meagher (Liverpool, N.Y.) finished with a school-record-tying 15 saves, including 10 in the first half.

 

“[Mikey] literally kept us in the game [early in the first half] after a few doorstep saves,” said O’Leary. “She made a huge save for us from her knees as well. Mikey played a tremendous game, and was a shining star over 60 minutes.”

 

Dashiell got things started early in the game, converting a pass from Gilroy to give Florida the early lead. Syracuse controlled possession for a long stretch after the Gators’ goal and Meagher withheld a barrage of shots for nearly five minutes before Katie Webster got the Orange on the board at the 22:37 mark in the first half.

 

Wiegand gave Florida the lead again with an unassisted goal at the 17:23 mark, and then Gilroy notched her first of the game just 13 seconds later for a 3-1 lead. Tumolo cut into the Gators’ lead with her first goal of the game, but UF responded when Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.) assisted on a goal from Nora Barry (Marcellus, N.Y.), and the Gators regained a two-goal advantage. Syracuse again cut it to one goal at 4-3 after Tumolo assisted on Devon Collins’ goal, but then Gilroy scored three-straight goals to close the half and Florida entered the locker room with a 7-3 lead.

 

The Gators’ momentum continued into the opening minutes of the second half, as Caroline Chesterman (South Nyack, N.Y.) and Dashiell scored back-to-back goals to put Florida ahead 9-3 less than two minutes into the half. Syracuse’s Katie Webster stopped Florida’s five-goal run, but Ashley Bruns (Ellicott City, Md.) and Dashiell notched two more for the Gators to build an 11-4 lead with 21:34 remaining in the game.

 

The two teams traded goals as Tumolo and Dashiell each scored again and Florida had a seven-goal lead at 12-5 with 17:15 to play, but Syracuse would not be denied. With 11:38 remaining in the game, Collins scored her second goal of the game and the Orange built off the momentum, scoring twice more to cut the lead to four goals at 12-8 with less than eight minutes left.

 

Gilroy seemingly halted the momentum 30 seconds later with her fifth goal, giving Florida a 13-8 lead, but it would be the final goal of the night for the Gators. Syracuse rallied in the final seven minutes, scoring six unanswered goals. Playing two men up after a pair of Gator yellow cards, Holden notched the game-tying goal off a free-position shot with 30 seconds left  to end regulation tied at 13-13.

 

Florida had the possession that it wanted in the first overtime period, holding the ball for one final shot before heading to sudden-death overtime. As Wiegand drove to the cage, she was fouled and awarded a free-position attempt, which she got past Syracuse goalie Kelsey Richardson only to have the goal called back after the stick check.

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