Northwestern ousts Florida lacrosse from NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals in double overtime

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.

Continue Reading » Northwestern ousts Florida lacrosse from NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals in double overtime

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Florida Gators lacrosse storms back to top Northwestern for ALC Championship

By Jordan McPherson — OnlyGators.com Contributor

Leave it to a veteran to make a play when it matters the most.

With 32 seconds remaining in the 2014 American Lacrosse Conference Tournament Championship, junior midfielder Nora Barry scored the crucial game-winning goal to lift the Florida Gators to a 9-8 win over the Northwestern Wildcats on Sunday in Evanston, Illinois.

Florida (17-2) fell behind early in the contest but rallied to outscore the hosts 7-1 in the second half.

The game was tied 2-2 early in the first half when Northwestern (12-6) scored five consecutive goals to end the period with a 7-2 advantage.

The Wildcats led the Gators in almost every statistical category after the first 30 minutes, including draw controls (7-3), shots (13-7) and saves (4-2).

Continue Reading » Florida Gators lacrosse storms back to top Northwestern for ALC Championship

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Syracuse eliminates Florida lacrosse from NCAA Tournament for second-straight season

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.

Continue Reading » Syracuse eliminates Florida lacrosse from NCAA Tournament for second-straight season

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Florida lacrosse makes history, advances to 2012 NCAA Final Four with 15-2 rout of Penn State

No. 1 Florida Gators lacrosse became the youngest program in the history of the sport to advance to the Final Four after topping the Penn State Nittany Lions 15-2 in the Elite Eight round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Saturday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Florida (19-2) had the advantage on Penn State (12-7) all afternoon, outscoring their opponents 8-2 in the first half and shutting them out 7-0 in the second half on the way to a monumental win for the program.

Midfielders junior Brittany Dashiell and freshman Nora Barry scored three goals each for the Gators, which also received two goals apiece from junior attackers Kitty Cullen and Ashley Bruns and freshman M Shannon Gilroy.

Gilroy also notched a game-high six draw controls, and Barry contributed three of her own to give UF a 15-4 advantage. Bruns, Barry and junior defender Sam Farrell each grabbed three ground balls to lead Florida over Penn State 16-7 in that category.

The Gators also outshot the Nittany Lions 34-12 and committed five fewer turnovers (7-12) than their opponents over the course of the contest.

Junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher continued her dominant presence in the net for Florida, allowing just two goals while registering seven saves.

“I’m really proud of our program, the players, the coaches, the support staff,” head coach Amanda O’Leary said following UF’s victory. “This was a monumental win for us. We’ve been preparing for this since we lost to Duke in this same round last year. These young ladies have put in so much hard work. They have the heart, they have the passion and I thought it really showed today. This was 60 minutes of great lacrosse for Florida. I thought our players across the board defensively, in the goal cage, through the midfield, in the attacking end, absolutely I thought this was one of our best efforts.”

Despite their accomplishments thus far, the Gators still have a tough task ahead of them to advance to the program’s first national title game. Florida will take on No. 4 Syracuse in Final Four action on Friday (live on ESPN3.com); the winner of the match will face either Northwestern or Duke for the championship on May 27 at 8 p.m.

UF fell to SU 12-11 in overtime on March 3 and is 1-1 all-time against the program.

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Florida lacrosse advances by topping Albany 6-4

Surviving stall tactics that kept the contest low-scoring, No. 1 Florida Gators lacrosse (18-2) defeated the Albany Great Danes (12-6) in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament and used their 6-4 victory to advance to the event’s quarterfinal round.

Florida started hot out of the gate, taking an early 4-0 lead before allowing Albany to get on the board with 11:28 remaining in the opening half. The Great Danes did their best to keep the ball away from the Gators’ potent offensive weapons, thus slowing down the pace of the game and reducing UF’s opportunities to put together a blow out, but were unable to score enough on their own even while winning the second half 3-2.

Freshman midfielder Shannon Gilroy, one match after scoring a career-high seven goals to lead Florida to the 2012 ALC Tournament Championship, once again led the Gators with two goals while also registering a team-high five draw controls.

Junior attacker Kitty Cullen, junior M Brittany Dashiell, freshman M Nora Barry and freshman M Nicole Graziano added a goal each.

UF extended their impressive winning streak to 14 games with the victory and will look to increase that number once again a week from Saturday when they take on Penn State in quarterfinal action on May 19 at 12:30 p.m.

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Florida lacrosse wins first ALC Tournament title

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

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FOUR BITS: Hunter, lacrosse, tennis selections

1 » Florida Gators freshman gymnast Kytra Hunter, who won a pair of 2012 NCAA Championships in the all-around and vault last month, was named the recipient of the Honda Sports Award on Wednesday. The honor, which basically makes Hunter the “gymnast of the year” by recognizing her as the best student-athlete in her sport, is awarded to one female in 12 different NCAA-sanctioned sports. It is the second straight year that a Gators student-athlete has won one of the awards with outfielder Kelsey Bruder bringing home the honor for softball in 2011. In the 36-year history of the Honda Sports Award, Florida has won it 15 times in six different sports (UF student-athletes were honored in two sports in 1982).

2 » One of six Florida lacrosse players to be honored by the American Lacrosse Conference on Wednesday, freshman midfielder Nora Barry was named the 2012 ALC Rookie of the Year after registering 32 goals (on 54 shots) in 17 games during the regular season. Barry’s goal total was the fifth-highest on the Gators, but she led the team in ground balls and also finished second in draw controls. Three Florida juniors – attacker Kitty Cullen, M Brittany Dashiell and defender Sam Farrell – were named to the All-ALC First Team, while Barry, junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher and junior A Gabi Wiegand received second-team nods.

3 » Four members of No. 2 Gators women’s tennis found themselves placed in the brackets for the 2012 NCAA Individual Championships when the selections were announced on Wednesday. Junior Allie Will not only earned the No. 1 seed in the singles tournament but is also one half of the No. 1 doubles team along with sophomore Sofie Oyen. Junior Lauren Embree was placed in the grouping of singles seeds 9-16, Oyen was chosen as an alternate and the pairing of Embree/senior Joanna Mather also made it as an at-large doubles team. Florida has not won a NCAA singles title since 1996 (Jill Craybas) or a doubles title since 2001 (Whitney Laiho/Jessica Lehnhoff).

4 » No. 11 UF men’s tennis also had four players selected for the NCAA Individual Championships as senior Nassim Slilam and juniors Tripper Carleton and Bob van Overbeek all received at-large bids for the singles bracket. (Sophomore Spencer Newman is listed as an alternate.) Additionally, the duo of Slilam/junior Billy Federhofer will compete in the doubles draw. The Gators have not won a NCAA singles title since 1999 (Jeff Morrison) or a doubles title since 1993 (Mark Merklein/David Blair).

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FOUR BITS: Leak, Demps, lacrosse, Tebow

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak supposedly signed with the Orlando Predators of the AFL on Monday and the team wants to name him their starter for Saturday’s game, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “We would like to bring him in as the face of the franchise, and I hope he ends up as our starting quarterback,” team general partner Brett Bouchy told the paper. Unfortunately for both sides, Leak was not able to join the team Monday or Tuesday thanks to his former squad the Jacksonville Sharks. According to the Florida Times-Union, even though Leak refuses to play for Jacksonville and the team does not want him back the Sharks have not released him from his contract and still retain his rights. “If the Predators want Leak, they have coach [Les] Moss’ number and we will be more than happy to trade him,” Jacksonville managing partner Jeff Bouchy (Brett Bouchy’s brother) said. “We cannot see any scenario in which Leak will wear a Sharks uniform again.” Leak’s future is now in limbo as he waits to find out if one Bouchy will trade the other something for his services. He has bounced around the CFL and AFL since being passed over by the NFL and actually played for the Jacksonville franchise this season before being replaced as starting quarterback after a five-touchdown performance. “It was an unfortunate situation in Jacksonville, but I’ve moved on,” Leak said. “I’m just very excited about the opportunity to play at home.”

2 » With the 2012 NFL Draft approaching, one name that continues to be notably absent is former Gators running back and current Florida sprinter Jeff Demps, who chose after the season to bypass the NFL in order to concentrate on running track and the 2012 London Olympics. Demps likely would have been a third- or fourth-round pick in the draft but chose an uncertain path that he enjoys over a certain future that did not hold the top spot in his heart. “Just, during the football season, I enjoyed football, but I just felt I had to be on the track,” he told FOX Sports in in yet another article about his decision and future in sports. “I had to follow my heart, and my heart said to be with track. It’s a career decision.”

3 » Gators lacrosse swept the ALC weekly awards on Monday. Junior atacker Gabi Wiegand won Offensive Player of the Week, junior defender Sam Farrell picked up Defensive Player of the Week and midfielder Nora Barry was named Rookie of the Week. It is the first time since the ALC expanded to three weekly awards that one team has swept all three in a single week.

4 » Could QB Tim Tebow already be winning over New York Jets players through a few days of offseason camp? According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Jets No. 2 wide receiver Jeremy Kerley was pleasantly surprised how well Tebow has been performing already and offered up some praise for his new teammate. “Different than Mark, different than Mark,” he said of Tebow as a quarterback. “His ball comes out a little bit stronger, but he’s accurate, he’s more accurate than what I thought he was going to be. But he’s a good dude, he has a great personality, he’ll bring a lot of personality to the team.” The Ledger asked him how much more velocity Tebow throws with as compared to Mark Sanchez. Kerley’s answer: “A LOT, a lot more velocity. No dis to Mark, he brings it man.”

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