There have been plenty of firsts for the young Florida Gators lacrosse program but few will be as memorable as what the team accomplished on Saturday, defeating the Northwestern Wildcats 14-7 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL to capture the 2012 ALC Tournament Championship.
No. 3 Florida (17-2), the top seed in the tournament, played stellar defense throughout the contest and used seven clutch goals and a career performance by freshman midfielder Shannon Gilroy to upend No. 1 Northwestern for the second time this season and third time in the last two years.
The victory marked the first ALC tournament title in school history and the third conference championship overall as UF has won the league’s regular season title in each of the last two years.
The teams traded goals to open the match, but the Gators went on a 4-0 scoring stretch including two goals each by Gilroy and junior attacker Kitty Cullen to take an early 5-1 lead. UF was able to maintain that four-goal advantage through the break by matching both goals the Wildcats scored down the stretch and taking a 7-3 lead into the half.
Florida and Northwestern took turns scoring in the second half with the Gators’ lead never dipping below three goals for the duration of the contest. In fact, once UF’s lead was cut to three, Florida scored three-straight goals to jump ahead 11-5 with 12:44 left in the match. The Gators held on down the stretch, using a combination of tough defense, controlled ball handling and consistent scoring to outlast the Wildcats and pick up the hard-fought victory.
Joining Gilroy’s efficient, effective and dominating offensive performance (seven goals on nine shots with three draw controls) were Cullen (three goals on six shots) and junior A Caroline Chesterman (two goals on three shots). Midfielders junior Brittany Dashiell and freshman Nora Barry added a goal each.
Florida handed Northwestern their worst loss in nine years and is proving to be a major thorn in the side of a team that has won six of the last seven national titles. The Gators are 3-1 against the Wildcats over the last two seasons with all three victories resulting in ALC titles (two regular season, one tournament). Florida is also the first team besides Northwestern to win the ALC Tournament in the event’s six-year history.
The Gators will now set their sights on the 2012 NCAA Tournament where UF may very well earn the No. 1 overall seed in the event. Either way, Florida will play host at least through the quarterfinals of the event as long as they are awarded a top-four seed.
ALC Tournament MVP: Junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher
ALC All-Tournament Team: Brittany Dashiell, Shannon Gilroy, Mikey Meagher, junior defenders Sam Farrell and Jamie Reeg