UF lacrosse rolls Penn State for Final Four berth

The Gators celebrate after defeating the Penn State Nittany Lions in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Women's Lacrosse Tournament on Saturday, May 19, 2012 in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Penn State 15-2 to advance to the Final Four next weekend in Stony Brook, N.Y.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 5:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 5:54 p.m.

Mission accomplished.


NCAA semifinal

Who: Florida (19-2) vs. Syracuse (18-3)
When: Friday, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Stony Brook University (N.Y.)
On air: ESPN3

Top-ranked Florida is headed to the Final Four in Stony Brook, N.Y.

Coach Amanda O'Leary's Gators turned in one of their most complete efforts of the year, dominating play from start to finish at both ends of the field en route to Saturday's impressive 15-2 NCAA quarterfinal win over Penn State at Donald R. Dizney Stadium that propels UF into its first NCAA semifinal.

“I'm really proud of our program — the players, the coaches, the support staff,” O'Leary said. “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 and they have the passion, and I thought it really showed today.”

Florida, winner of 15 games in a row, is the first team in history to advance to the Final Four in only its third year of existence as a program. The Gators (19-2), the No. 1 seed, will square off against No. 4 seed Syracuse (18-3), a 17-16 quarterfinal winner over No. 5 seed North Carolina, on Friday night with the winner advancing to the NCAA Championship game Sunday night.

All games will be played on the campus of Stony Brook University. The two semifinals Friday will be streamed live online on ESPN3, while Sunday's title game will air live on ESPNU.

The Gators never trailed Saturday, with freshman midfielder Shannon Gilroy jump-starting their attack with a pair of unassisted goals in the first three-plus minutes of the match.

A goal from Penn State's Haley Ford with 22:46 left in the first half pulled the Nittany Lions (12-7) within one, but a few minutes later, UF junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell answered by putting home back-to-back goals just 51 seconds apart to make it 4-1.

The Gators would go on to score five unanswered goals to take a 7-1 lead, holding Penn State scoreless for more than 16 minutes in the process, before heading to halftime up 8-2.

After the break, UF's staunch defense, led by juniors Emily Dohony, Jamie Reeg and Sam Farrell, continued to shut the Nittany Lions down, while the offense scored three times in the first six minutes to extend the lead to 11-2.

UF added four more goals before the final horn to win as Penn State was held scoreless in the second half.

A key to the Gators' success was their superiority in gaining possession. Florida easily won the battles for both draw controls (15-4) and ground balls (16-7).

“I think the little things are the most important things in the game, like ground balls and draw controls,” said Dashiell, who led all players with three goals and two assists.

“Those are key in every game because the team that has possession is the team that's going to score the goals. The little things are really what it comes down to in the end.”

“You have to get possession in order to win the game,” Penn State coach Missy Doherty said. “They made some really good goals in the early part of the first half — some good shots — and it's hard to play from behind against Florida.”

Freshman Nora Barry, the ALC Rookie of the Year, had three goals for UF while junior attackers Kitty Cullen and Ashley Bruns joined Gilroy in scoring two goals and adding an assist.

Both goalkeepers were solid. Penn State senior Dana Cahill, the ALC Goalie of the Year, was bombarded with 34 shots and was credited with 13 saves, while UF junior Mikey Meagher surrendered just two goals and notched seven saves (12 shots) before giving way to fellow junior Cara Canington with 1:39 left in the game and receiving a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd of 708.

“This was sixty minutes of great lacrosse for Florida,” O'Leary said. “Across the board defensively, in the goal cage, through the midfield and in the attacking end, I thought this was one of our best efforts.”

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