UF WOMEN'S LACROSSE
Florida falls to Northwestern in overtime
Published: Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 6:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 6:51 p.m.
Like two champion heavyweights, No. 4 seed Florida and No. 5 seed Northwestern punched and counter-punched from the beginning to the end Saturday of their overtime NCAA quarterfinal match at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.
Appropriately enough for Northwestern, a Kat delivered the knockout blow.
Senior Kat DeRonda's goal with just 15.8 seconds left in the second of two, three-minute overtime periods was the game-winner as the Wildcats (14-6) advanced to their 10th consecutive NCAA semifinal with a pulsating 12-11 win over Florida (18-3), ending the Gators' 29-game home winning streak in a matchup that featured six ties and six lead changes.
“It was back-and-forth, back-and-forth, but I think we remained poised and calm,” UF senior defender Krista Grabher said. “I thought the last shot was just a really good shot.
“We had good momentum. We just couldn't pull it out in the end.”
The heartbreaking loss ended an outstanding season for a young Florida team that was expected to be in rebuilding mode after losing 13 seniors who were the core of UF's meteoric rise to national prominence, but instead won the Gators' fourth straight American Lacrosse Conference regular-season title and their second ALC Tournament championship in the league's last year of existence.
“A great congratulations to Northwestern,” UF coach Amanda O'Leary said. “They came out and competed hard. They were the better team today.”
Despite being the focus of the Wildcats' defense, UF junior Shannon Gilroy led the Gators with three goals, moving her school-record, NCAA-leading total to 86 on the year.
Sophomore Lauren Lea had two goals and three assists for a game-high five points, and freshman Sammi Burgess added a pair of goals, but it wasn't enough.
While the final difference was the scoreboard, it was the Wildcats' ability to win the draw-control battle and be more efficient with their shots that ultimately led to victory. Leading the way was Northwestern senior Alyssa Leonard, who had a game-high seven draw controls, scored three goals on three shots and added an assist.
DeRonda added three goals on four shots for the patient Wildcats, who were a solid 12-of-18 shooting while UF was just 11-of-25.
“We knew that the draw was going to be critical,” O'Leary said. “It's always a big competition. Obviously 50-50 balls, Northwestern competed on those and beat us 16-11 in draw controls. It went in their favor five more times, which means it gave them five more opportunities offensively. Against a team as well-skilled and as well-coached as Northwestern, you can't give them those opportunities.
“Alyssa is the best in the country at that position, and she showed it today.”
While this marks 10 straight final fours for the Wildcats, who have won seven NCAA titles under coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, it is their first NCAA quarterfinal win on the road and avenged a pair of one-goal home losses to the Gators this season.
“We're obviously very excited about the win,” Hiller said. “Florida is just such an unbelievable team. Obviously they tested us greatly this season and beat us twice. I have a lot of respect for their players and coaching staff, which makes this win pretty special for us.”
The game also closed out the careers of UF's Grabher and senior goalie Cara Canington, who was inserted in the cage with 15 minutes left in regulation and finished things out.
“I'm just really proud of our seniors,” O'Leary said. “What they brought to the table, as I told them in the locker room, was their leadership, their love and their caring. I'm sad for them, because they gave so much to this program. I wish we could have done more and moved on.”