Florida, winner of 15 consecutive matches, advances at NCAA women's lacrosse tournament

Noah Ram
Special to The Sun
Florida attack Brianna Harris (20) with a shot on goal in the first half Sunday against Jacksonville during the second round the NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

For the first time this NCAA Tournament, a tense mood fell over the fans Sunday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. 

The Jacksonville Dolphins mounted an early-game attack and drew a free position attempt less than four minutes into the contest. Jacksonville senior Sarah Elms lined up, and the crowd held its breath. 

Florida goalkeeper Sarah Reznick delivered a huge save, and in came a sigh of relief. 

About 40 seconds later, Eagan Paisley scored her 29th goal of the season, and the usual state of euphoria returned to the Diz. 

Overall sixth-seeded Gators knocked off the Dolphins 17-3 to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA women's lacrosse tournament for the first time since 2018. 

UF (18-2) entered looking to gain revenge. One of Florida’s two losses — and its most recent one — transpired March 13 in Jacksonville. The Gators fell 12-11, their first loss to the Dolphins (12-2).  

“I think there is always a revenge factor,” UF coach Amanda O’Leary said. “The fact that we lost 12-11 and dominated for a good portion of this game shows growth from this team and that we are peaking at the right time.” 

O’Leary said the team’s increased composure and improved defense played a big role in the enhanced play. 

Jacksonville, the winner of the Atlantic Sun Conference, picked up a dominant 20-12 win over Vanderbilt on Friday evening. No. 17 Jacksonville was the first-ranked opponent Florida played in nearly two months (No. 25 Temple on March 21) and the highest foe since a loss to No. 1 North Carolina Feb. 19. 

It took a bit longer for UF, winners of 15 consecutive matches, to get going like it did two days ago in its 23-5 demolition over Mercer. Six minutes in, Florida had just one ball in the net. But then the barrage began with goals by Grace Haus, Brianna Harris and Maggi Hall to make it 4-0. 

A Jacksonville goal courtesy of Elms interrupted an eventual 10-1 scoring run. Florida led 10-2 at the half. A scary moment for the Gators occurred near the end of the half when fifth-year senior and team captain Cara Trombetta suffered a knee injury. The crowd stood stunned silent as coaches helped her off the field. O’Leary failed to provide an injury update after the game. 

In the second half, O’Leary kept her starters in for much of the game, and that allowed stats to increase. Haus set a career-high with seven goals, three of which happened consecutively near the conclusion of the second frame. 

Reznick also tied her highest save percentage of the season (.750) and finished with nine saves. In total, UF retained its aggressive offensive play and ended with 35 shots, 29 on goal. 

“I think we have really gotten better in the circle with everyone moving together and cutting through,” Haus said. “We are flowing as a team and an offense.” 

The Gators next travel to Syracuse, New York, to battle the third-seeded Orange (15-3), who defeated Loyola Maryland in their second-round match. That match is set for 2 p.m. Saturday. 

“It’s always exciting when you play a school like Syracuse,” Haus said. “They are usually on our schedule and always give us a good game and competition.” 

Florida attack Grace Haus (15) with a goal against Jacksonville in the first half Sunday during the second round of the NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.