Florida lacrosse tops Vandy

Florida's Lauren Lea (1) drives the ball at the goal during a lacrosse match against Vanderbilt at Donald R. Dizney in Gainesville Sunday April 13, 2014. The Gators beat the Commodores 14-9.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, April 13, 2014 at 11:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 13, 2014 at 11:20 p.m.

With Vanderbilt having cut an 8-2, late first-half advantage by No. 4 Florida to a slim 9-8 lead with 23:28 left to play in Sunday's match at Donald R. Dizney Stadium, UF coach Amanda O'Leary called a timeout and got the full attention of her young squad.

“It's tough when you get put on your heels, and it's just a matter of when you have a young team like we do, just getting their mental state back where it needs to be,” O'Leary said. “That timeout was critical, and I give them credit for coming out of that and responding.”

Respond they did, as the Gators (14-2, 5-0) outscored the Commodores, 5-1, the rest of the way while holding Vanderbilt (4-10, 1-4) scoreless over the final 19:59 of the match en route to a 14-9 American Lacrosse Conference win before a crowd of 692 on Senior Day.

Freshman Sammi Burgess led the way with a career-high four goals for Florida, while fellow freshman Mollie Stevens had three and junior All-American Shannon Gilroy added two goals and two assists despite being constantly face-guarded to up her nation-leading total to 73 goals while setting a single-season program scoring record with 88 points, eclipsing former great Kitty Cullen's previous mark of 86 set in 2011.

“Being face-guarded, it stinks,” Burgess said. “It's like a backwards compliment, really, but we kind of knew they were going to do that. We were prepared for it, and we tried to get Shannon open as much as possible.

“It was big that other people could step up and get the job done.”

UF answered each of Vandy's first two goals with quick explosions, scoring three times in less than two minutes to wipe out an early 1-0 deficit, and later adding four goals in a span of just 1:08, including back-to-back Burgess goals just 17 seconds apart, to turn a 3-2 lead into a 7-2 edge.

But after UF's lead grew to 8-2 on Burgess' third goal of the game, the Commodores closed out the half on a 4-1 run to go into the locker room with plenty of momentum, trailing only 9-6.

After Vandy scored the first two goals of the second half, O'Leary had seen enough and gathered the troops.

“We pulled it in for a timeout and said, 'You know, this is our game, and we're going to pull it out,'” said sophomore Lauren Lea, who had a key goal to give UF a 12-9 lead with less than 18 minutes left and added four ground balls. “We're going to take these opportunities, and if we don't get the first opportunity, then we're going to get the second and third.”

Making the day even sweeter for UF was the fact that seniors Cara Canington and Krista Grabher, who were both honored in a post-match ceremony, played key roles.

Grabher helped anchor Florida's strong late defensive effort while Canington, who did not start but came in just before intermission and played the rest of the way, came up with four key second-half saves to help hold off the Commodores.

“I'm just really pleased with this victory,” O'Leary said. “This is a great win for our two seniors in sending them on their way in a real positive way.”

The victory, Florida's sixth in a row and 28th consecutive at home, coupled with a 12-11, double-overtime upset of No. 5 Northwestern by No. 13 Johns Hopkins on Sunday, clinched at least a share of the ALC title for the fourth straight year for UF heading into Saturday's regular-season finale at Northwestern.

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