No. 5 Florida knocks off No. 1 Northwestern 8-7, captures second-straight ALC title

For a program only in its third season of existence, Florida Gators lacrosse continues to make plenty of noise. No. 5 Florida (15-2, 5-0 ALC) took down the previously undefeated No. 1 Northwestern Wildcats (14-1, 4-1 ALC) on Saturday, outscoring their hosts 8-7 at Lakeside Field in Evanston, IL to capture their second ALC regular season title in as many seasons.

UF clinched a share of the 2011 ALC title by defeating Northwestern 13-11 last season before winning the championship outright a few days later after beating Vanderbilt. The Wildcats got a measure of revenge on the Gators in 2011 by prevailing over their new rivals for the ALC Tournament Championship in a 10-9 slugfest. Florida will be the No. 1 seed in the tournament for the second-straight year.

Three Gators juniors – midfielder Brittany Dashiell and attackers Ashley Bruns and Gabi Wiegand – each scored two goals in Saturday’s contest. Junior goalkeeper Mickey Meager was equally clutch for the orange and blue by picking up seven saves on 14 shots over the course of the match.

Florida got out to an early 2-0 lead and scored the final three goals of the opening period to hold a 5-2 advantage at halftime. Northwestern scored three goals to open the second period (including two by Erin Fitzgerald) to even things out at 5-5, but it took Bruns less than 30 seconds to put UF back ahead 6-5 with 25:39 remaining.

The Wildcats soon evened things up and then took their only lead of the game, 7-6 with 20:51 left, but were unable to maintain their momentum. Gators freshman M Nora Barry tied the match a minute later on an assist from freshman M Nicole Graziano and both sides went scoreless over the next 14 minutes.

Wiegand (four points) then stepped up unassisted at 5:47 and scored what would become the game- and championship-winning goal for UF.

Northwestern has now lost two total regular season matches since 2004 after dropping late-season contests to Florida in each of the last two seasons. UF also ended NU’s 24-game winning streak.

The Gators will return to Gainesville, FL as they prepare to host the 2012 ALC Tournament May 3-5. Florida, as the No. 1 overall seed, receives a first-round bye and will participate in semifinal action on May 4 at 7 p.m.

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SIX BITS: Nelson, Cunningham, softball, lax, UK

1 » On Feb. 1, OGGOA reported that former Florida Gators safety Reggie Nelson could be cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars if he does not show significant improvement by the time training camp concludes. Nelson owned up to ESPN about his issues in 2009 and has figured out why they occurred. “I had mistakes last year, I did,” he said. “I’ve watched film since I’ve been here in February and I can own up and say, ‘Yes, I did blow some coverages. Yes, I did miss tackles.’ That’s something I’ve looked at. I have to correct them. You’ve got to look at it: I played safety, corner, nickel, so many different positions. Most players would be like, ‘Oh, no, I’m not doing that, y’all drafted me for this.’ That’s not me, I want to win. I took that challenge, I played corner, I played nickel. I am a competitive guy. [...] They made their decision and I’ve got to live with it.” Nelson also said he will not do the same thing in 2010 – if it is up to him. “The way things happened last year, I don’t think I’d do it,” he said. “I will not do it. I tried that last year. It didn’t work. I don’t think it was fair to me. I would not go back. You live and you lean. It’s their decision, regardless. The only thing I can do is show up and play football.”

2 » The New England Patriots want former Florida defensive end Jermaine Cunningham to replace recently released outside linebacker Adalius Thomas – this much is known. How he will progress in the transition remains to be seen, but head coach Bill Belichick is just as confident as Cunningham is in himself. “It’s all football. I’m a football player,” Cunningham said. “I’m going to study the playbooks and just do whatever it takes to get better, and keep on getting better. […] I’m a hard worker and fundamental technician. […] Left or right, just get to the ball.” For what its worth, Cunningham has also taken to giving a name to the influx of former Gators with the Patriots – “Gator Nation North,” he calls it.

Four more BITS on softball, lacrosse, baseball and Kentucky basketball posting the lowest average GPA in the SEC…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Nelson, Cunningham, softball, lax, UK

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