By Jordan McPherson – OnlyGators.com Contributor
In order to advance to the Final Four for the second time in three seasons, the No. 4 Florida Gators had to take down the rival No. 5 Northwestern Wildcats for the third time in as many meetings this year.
Unfortunately for the Gators, which defeated the Wildcats on the road by one point apiece in each of the first two meetings, Northwestern took control at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, and defeated the hosts 12-11 in double-overtime .
UF has now been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the quarterfinal round for the third time in four years. It was the second time in three seasons that a team took down Florida in a double overtime quarterfinal match.
The Wildcats (14-6) thumped the Gators (18-3) on draw controls, 16-9, with Northwestern attacker Alyssa Leonard, the NCAA career leader in the category, registering a match-high seven, more than double anyone else on the field.
It was a back-and-forth game on offense for both teams. After Leonard opened up the scoring 2:41 into the game, Florida went on a 4-0 run over the course of 9:06 in the first half to take a 4-1 lead. The Wildcats finished off the half by similarly scoring four unanswered goals to take a 5-4 lead into halftime.
The second half opened with another 4-0 run for the Gators capped off by back-to-back goals from junior midfielder Shannon Gilroy, who finished the day with three goals and extended her school-record season total to 86.
Northwestern answered with a 5-1 run over 5:34 to take a 10-9 lead with 14:16 remaining, but Florida sophomores M Sam Darcangelo and A Lauren Lea – who led all players with five points on the afternoon – found the back of the net to give the hosts an 11-10 advantage with less than eight minutes to play.
The Wildcats tied the match at 11-11 with 4:51 to play on a goal from A Kat DeRonda and neither team was able to find the back of the net for the duration of regulation.
Florida junior M Nora Barry missed an open free position shot with two minutes left and turned the ball over shortly thereafter with an errant pass that flew out of bounds. Northwestern was unable to execute on its last possession.
The first three-minute overtime came and went without a shot being taken. Leonard corralled the draw control to open the second overtime, and the Wildcats ran the clock down until DeRonda came through in the clutch yet again by scoring the game-winning goal with 16 seconds left to play.
Northwestern will face No. 1 Maryland (20-1) in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Friday in Towson, Maryland, while Florida licks its wounds from yet another extremely tough postseason defeat.