With revenge on their minds and a national title still standing as their primary goal, No. 5 Florida Gators lacrosse entered the Carrier Dome on Saturday looking to oust the No. 4 Syracuse Orange from the 2013 NCAA Tournament quarterfinals and continue their run to the first national championship in program history. Instead, rather than take the first step towards the storybook ending that the senior class had hoped to achieve, Florida faltered against its burgeoning rival, falling 13-9 to a Syracuse team that has gotten the best of UF in the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons.
The fact that the Gators (18-3) were forced to play on the home turf of the Orange (18-3) was purely a matter of seeding. That was not without controversy, however, as Florida was awarded the tournament’s No. 5 overall seed despite topping Syracuse 14-10 in a neutral site contest on March 2 and also registering victories over the teams that were handed the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the event.
Nevertheless, the Gators got the opportunity they wanted – to take down the Orange as a measure of revenge for a controversial come-from-behind victory just one year ago in the Final Four of the 2012 NCAA Tournament – but ultimately came up short.
Florida held a pair of one-goal leads early in the first half on Saturday at 3-2 and 4-3. Despite being tied 4-4 at the break, Syracuse simply outplayed UF down the stretch, outscoring the visitors 9-5 and forcing a total of 13 turnovers in the contest.
Senior attacker Kitty Cullen and sophomore midfielders Shannon Gilroy and Nora Barry each found the back of the net twice on Saturday.
The loss was especially gut-wrenching for the 13 true seniors (and one redshirt junior) that make up 45 percent of the Gators’ roster. All but two seniors were members of the team’s original top-ranked recruiting class and each hoped to bring home a national title before their careers came to an end.
Though these ladies did not capture the title they hoped to achieve, they nevertheless established a championship-level standard for Florida lacrosse.
In the four years that Gators lacrosse has existed, the program has won three ALC Tournament titles and two ALC regular-season crowns. Florida has also advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament once and the quarterfinals twice. A program established in 2010 has been a top-five team in each of the last three seasons.
Tough breaks and heartbreaking losses have been common for Gators athletics over the last few years and this one will certainly sting quite a bit for these ladies.
Years from now, the first-class first class of Florida lacrosse should be able to look back on their careers with pride. Establishing a championship tradition is a tall task but when it pays off sooner than later, these women will be able to hold their heads high and realize they were the ones that led the way for the entire program.
“I got to be apart of the first ever gator lacrosse team. We started from nothing and made Florida lacrosse something,” said Cullen on her Twitter account after the match. “Leaving this place with a legacy, a history, and the best family I could have ever imagined. It truly is great to be a Florida gator!”