Gilroy's 7 goals help Gators take ALC tournament title
Published: Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 2:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 6, 2012 at 12:41 a.m.
In its quick three-year rise in women's lacrosse, Florida took another historic step Saturday afternoon.
The host Gators won their first American Lacrosse Conference tournament title in school history, knocking off No. 1 Northwestern 14-7 before 882 fans at Dizney Stadium.
“Really proud of our team today,” Florida coach Amanda O'Leary said. “They came out, they persevered after a tough game last night (against Ohio State) and just played a really solid 60 minutes, and that's what we asked them to do.”
Florida (17-2) got another stellar performance from a freshman in the breakthrough win. Freshman midfielder Shannon Gilroy scored seven goals and dominated the draw, helping the Gators to an 18-5 advantage on draw controls.
“They were excellent all over the field, played very smart and took advantage of every opportunity they had,” Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte-Hiller said. “You can't win a game when you lose draw controls 18-5. I think that was really the story.”
The Gators knocked off Northwestern for the second time this season and avenged a 10-9 loss to the Wildcats in last year's ALC Tournament final.
“For us to come out and compete the way we did today, I think it was a momentous occasion,” O'Leary said.
Gilroy scored four of her seven goals in the first half, helping the Gators jump to a 7-3 halftime lead. By halftime, Florida had already surpassed its scoring total in its 5-4 semifinal win Friday night against Ohio State.
“I was trying to pick my spots better than (Ohio State) because it was an off day for all of us,” Gilroy said. “We just really had to work on our shooting today and finishing shots.”
Gilroy then came up with a big unassisted goal with 9:45 left to put Florida back ahead 12-6. Another unassisted goal from Gilroy with 6:12 remaining extended UF's lead to 13-7.
“She dominated the draw and then to be able to score at the other end just says a lot about her athleticism,” O'Leary said.
Florida was as strong defensively, limiting a Northwestern team that came into the ALC Tournament averaging 14.3 goals per game to just seven goals. Florida goalkeeper Mikey Meagher had nine saves against Northwestern and was named ALC Tournament MVP. The Gators also snapped Northwestern attacker Shannon Smith's 62-game goal scoring streak.
“The defense did a phenomenal job — each and every one of them,” Meagher said. “Their ability to hold out the offense is incredible.”
Junior attacker Kitty Cullen added three goals and an assist for the Gators, and junior Caroline Chesterman had two goals and an assist.
For veterans like Chesterman and Cullen, the win was extra special. Both could recall losing to Northwestern 19-5 as freshmen, when the Gators could barely move the ball past midfield.
“Coming in Mandy told us that one day we were going to be a good team,” Chesterman said. “Last year, we realized we could compete with the best teams in the country. We were the underdogs last year and realized that we can compete and we can play.
“This year, I think we're working hard day in and day out in practice, trying to get better.”
The win over Northwestern also should provide a boost to UF's NCAA Tournament seeding. Florida will find out its tournament draw on Sunday night, but the win will likely give the Gators two home games before the NCAA Final Four in Stony Brook, N.Y.
Overall, Florida has won 13 straight heading into NCAA Tournament play.
“We hope we're on the ladder up,” O'Leary said. “We always hope that there's a better game we have inside.”
NOTES: In addition to Meagher being named tournament MVP, Meagher, Gilroy, defender Sam Farrell, defender Jamie Reeg and midfielder Brittany Dashiell were named to the ALC all-tournament team.