A historic season for No. 1 Florida Gators lacrosse came to an end in devastating fashion on Friday as the team blew a seven-goal second-half lead and eventually fell 14-13 in sudden death overtime to the No. 4 Syracuse Orange in the Final Four of the 2012 NCAA Tournament at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium in Stony Brook, NY.
Syracuse (19-3) topped Florida (19-3) in sudden death overtime for the second time this season with the Orange previously defeating the Gators 12-11 in Gainesville, FL on March 3. UF’s 15-match winning streak came to an end on Friday as did the team’s hopes for the program’s first national title.
Junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell got things started for Florida, scoring just over two minutes into the first half. Syracuse evened things up five minutes later and was dominating the proceedings a third of the way through the opening half by outshooting UF 10-2, leading 6-0 in ground balls and taking a 3-0 edge in draw controls.
Despite their advantages, the Orange was unable to capitalize early on. Gators junior attacker Gabi Wiegand and freshman M Shannon Gilroy scored consecutive goals 13 seconds apart to put Florida ahead 3-1, though Syracuse quickly answered back again to hold a short-lived single-goal deficit.
That is when Gilroy took over, scoring three-straight goals over the final 10:25 of the half, including one 15 seconds before the break, to give the Gators a 7-3 lead as the teams headed into the locker rooms.
The Orange had their chances late in the half but saw consecutive shots bang off the post. UF junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher was also exceptional in the opening period, registering 10 saves on 18 shots and saving all three free position attempts she faced.
Meagher’s offense gave her an even larger cushion in the second half as junior A Caroline Chesterman
scored 37 seconds into the period and Dashiell followed with a free position goal to increase Florida’s lead to 9-3.
The Gators continued their scoring onslaught with junior A Ashley Bruns getting on the board and Dashiell notching her third goal of the match (the team’s second hat trick) to extend UF’s advantage to a match-high seven goals. Dashiell soon matched Gilroy with her fourth score of the match, putting Florida up 12-5 with 17:15 remaining.
Not ready to go down without a fight, the Orange scored three-straight goals in under four minutes to get within four of their top-ranked opponent. Gilroy picked the perfect time to score her fifth goal of the evening, tossing it into the net with 7:19 left in the game to give the Gators back a five-goal lead at 13-8.
However, Syracuse completely erased Florida’s five-goal advantage, tying the match at 13 by extending their scoring run to 8-1 to end the second half. The Gators allowed the game-tying goal with just 30 seconds remaining while down two women due to a pair of yellow cards being assessed inside the last minute of regulation.
After both teams went scoreless in the first three minutes of overtime, Florida won a draw control and stalled for approximately two minutes in order to get the final shot of the period. Wiegand eventually took that shot and scored with nine seconds remaining, but the goal was rescinded due to her scoring with an illegal stick.
The match then went into sudden death overtime with the first goal scored sending that respective team into the national title game. The Orange won the draw control and, following a timeout, scored the game-winning goal to send the Gators home for good.
Meagher, after registering 10 saves on 18 first-half shots, only notched five more over the duration of the contest. Syracuse outshot Florida 43-24 and held a 19-6 advantage on ground balls Friday evening.