NCAA Lacrosse: No. 6 seed UF eliminated at No. 3 James Madison

Florida lacrosse coach Amanda O'Leary. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun/File]

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HARRISONBURG, Va.  The No. 6 seed Florida lacrosse team ended its historic season Saturday when No. 3 seed James Madison won 11-8 in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals.

Florida (17-4) stormed back from a five-goal deficit with three minutes remaining in the game, but couldn’t overcome the deficit to advance to Stony Brook for the NCAA semifinals.

“We knew they were going to come out with a fantastic game plan and we are wishing them the best moving forward,” UF coach Amanda O’Leary said.

This was the first NCAA quarterfinal Florida has made since 2014, but the fifth overall (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2018).

Goals were at a premium in the first half, with the teams only scoring a combined seven goals throughout the first 30 minutes. Junior Lindsey Ronbeck notched the first two goals of the game at 19:42 and 13:27, putting the Gators up 2-0.

JMU (20-1) battled back to tie the game at two apiece, but freshman Grace Haus scored on a pass from classmate Shannon Kavanagh to give UF the 3-2 lead. That goal was Florida’s 338th of the season, a program record – passing last season’s total of 337.

Junior Haley Hicklenn notched 10 saves and a blistering .714 save percentage in the first half alone.

Haus came out with a quick goal in the second half to tie the game at four apiece and Kavanagh then found the back of the net just over a minute later to give the Gators the 5-4 lead.

James Madison scored three quick goals to take a 7-5 lead with 24:18 remaining in the game.

Haus pulled the Gators to within one at 7-6 on a pass from Kavanagh. The goal was Haus’ third of the game.

Just as the Gators were within striking distance, the Dukes added three more goals to their lead, taking the 11-6 advantage with eight minutes remaining in the game.

UF fought back in the final minutes of the game, with Ronbeck recording a hat trick to bring the Gators to within four at the 3:59 mark. Kavanagh followed with a goal 49 seconds later, but Florida was unable to find the back of the net after the 3:00 mark.

“Coming out of the half, we just needed to take a deep breath,” O’Leary said. “We were not finding our offense well during the first half, so we tried to revamp a bit. Credit to JMU because their defense did a great job against us today and really pulled us out of our comfort zone.”

Hicklen notched 12 saves in 60 minutes against the Dukes. The 12 saves is her eighth double-digit save total of the season. She finished her junior season with 17 wins in the cage, just one from tying the record for most in a single season. As a junior, she sits at 35 total in her career, 15 wins from tying the most all-time (Mikey Meagher, 50).

Hicklen has racked up 178 saves through 21 games this season, which is a Florida program record for most saves in a single season.