Complete demolition: Florida moves on to second round after blowout win vs. Mercer

Noah Ram
Special to The Sun
Florida's Grace Haus scores her fourth goal of the match Friday against Mercer at Dizney Stadium in the NCAA tournament.

Less than a minute had disappeared from the clock when redshirt sophomore Paisley Eagan lined up for her free-position goal attempt. Her one-hopper bounced past Mercer goalie Iseabel Cryne and into the net and made it 1-0 Florida. 

Eagan’s goal began a domination for the overall six seed Gators (17-2), as they roared past Mercer 23-5 Friday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. 

“Really proud of this group,” coach Amanda O’Leary said. “I thought they came out fired up. Offensively, we fired on all cylinders.” 

Heading into the match, Florida expected to easily roll past the Bears. Florida rode in on a 13-game winning streak and came off the AAC Conference Championship. Mercer, meanwhile, rocked a .500 record (7-7) and finished mid-pack in the Southern Conference. 

But UF, seeking its first title in program history, showed Mercer no mercy from the start. The Gators led 11-0 before Mercer even got a shot off. After Eagan’s second goal that made it 2-0, the orange and blue scored seven goals in just over three minutes. 

Two apiece came from redshirt senior Brianna Harris and senior Grace Haus. Harris finished with five goals and Haus ended with four. AAC Midfielder of the Year Shannon Kavanagh tied Harris at the top of the team leaderboard with five. 

Kavanagh said preparation’s key to the offense’s success. 

“We are scouting the defense, we are scouting the goalie, so we definitely work on in practice, running through those plays and working the clock,” she said. 

Kavanagh also won 16 draw controls, a career-high for the senior. Freshman Maggi Hall topped the squad with four assists, a career achievement for her as well. 

On offense, the Gators remained aggressive all game and attempted 38 shots, 31 of them on-goal. The 31 SOG set a new season-high for Florida, and its shots-on-goal percentage of 0.816 ranked fifth this campaign. In addition, UF set season records in points (34) and goals. 

Goalkeeper Sarah Reznick only saw three shots come her way in 40 minutes of play. She saved one of them, and O’Leary pulled her with 20 minutes left for backup freshman Julia Hammerschlag. 

The second unit took the field for UF most of the second half, and although Florida only outscored Mercer 5-4 in that frame, O’Leary still liked what she observed. 

“They basically are our scout offense and defense, so they go against our starters every single day,” O’Leary said. “Especially defensively, they did an excellent job.” 

Florida will play Jacksonville (12-1), a 20-12 winner over Vanderbilt in the other tourney opener.

The game commences from the ‘Diz at noon Sunday and will stream on ESPN3. A win puts Florida to the quarterfinals, its best finish since 2018.