On the Independent Florida Alligator website on March 30, 2013.
Florida did not leave Happy Valley, Pa., with a smile on Saturday afternoon.
Once the Gators have taken a lead, they have not allowed their opponents to get back into the game in all thirteen prior contests. On Saturday, the Florida allowed the lead to slip away twice.
With 19:14 left in the second half, Penn State capped off a three-goal run to tie the game 10-10. Forty-five seconds later, the Nittany Lions made it four goals, extending the lead to 11-10.
Florida coach Amanda O’Leary responded with a timeout to calm her team down. This was the latest in a game that Florida has trailed this season.
Out of the timeout, Penn State won the draw control, which was one of nine draw controls it had in the second half. Florida had two in that same span.
“We definitely got dominated in that center circle,” O’Leary said, “And that made all the difference in the world.”
With 18 minutes left in the game, Penn State started to use the stalling tactic to wind the time down. The Nittany Lions waited 8 minutes before they took a shot that was saved.
“It’s definitely frustrating to watch them hold the ball,” senior Gabi Wiegand said, “But you have to have confidence that your other teammates on the field will get the ball back.”
Florida had the ball and an opportunity to tie it but turned it over after two minutes.
That’s when it all snowballed for the Gators.
The Lions scored two more goals to make it a six-goal run.
O’Leary decided to take senior goalie Mikey Meagher out of the game to have an extra defender try to force a turnover.
“We had no choice but to pull Mikey,” O’Leary said.
It did not help the Gators in the end.
No. 2 Florida (13-1, 1-1 American Lacrosse Conference) suffered its first loss of the season Saturday, losing 16-11 to No. 10/9 Penn State (6-3, 1-0 ALC). This was the Gators first American Lacrosse Conference loss since May 7, 2010, and their first loss to Penn State in their program’s history after winning all four prior games.
The Gators were leading in every statistical category at halftime with a 9-6 lead. In the second half, the Lions outplayed the Gators.
Wiinning the draw controls 9-2, Penn State dominated the possession in the second half. The Lions launched 17 shots to the Gators’ three was a direct result from dominating the possession arrow.
“Collectively as an offense, we didn’t generate enough shots,” said Wiegand, who scored three goals in the game. “Yes, I might have had a good day on offense, but at the end of the day, we didn’t put up more points than them.”
O’Leary said, though, that she was pleased with the offense’s performance. To her, the offense did what it could with the amount of possessions it got.
The defense was a different story.
“We totally shut down defensively,” O’Leary said. “It wasn’t a good defensive day for us at all.”
“We need to come ready to play each and everyday, and unfortunately, I don’t think we showed up today like we should have. Obviously, nobody likes to lose and nobody wants to lose, but I think we can learn from this and move forward.”
On the Independent Florida Alligator website on March 29, 2013.
Out of the 14 players that have gotten to start at least one game this season, Sydney DuPre is the only freshman among the pack, and she has started in all 13 of them.
DuPre plays primarily on defense along with Emily Dohony, Sam Farrell, Jamie Reeg and Kayla Stolins, all of whom are seniors.
“I’ve been able to look up to all the seniors on defense,” DuPre said, “And they’ve been able to guide me in multiple ways.”
Opponents average 5.77 goals per game against this defense, and DuPre is an important component to that success.
“She’s fit in so well with us,” Farrell said. “If she doesn’t understand something, she’s not afraid to ask.”
Florida coach Amanda O’Leary has been impressed with DuPre and her willingness to step up into the starting defense, which was not something she expected her to play a crucial role in.
DuPre came to Florida as a midfielder and expected to play there when she arrived at Florida, but from day one in practice, Florida’s style of defense clicked with her.
“A lot of midfielders are mostly offensive-minded, and I think even in high school she was more defensive-minded,” Farrell said. “ It’s rare to like defense, and that’s very similar to me.”
Farrell and Reeg came into Florida in their freshman season as midfielders until O’Leary needed them on defense for a game, and a game turned into the rest of their college careers.
O’Leary said she inserts the players where she needs them.
With the second-ranked defense in the country, O’Leary has been quite successful with that philosophy, and DuPre is no exception.
“To break into [a starting role] says a lot not just about her athletic ability and her lacrosse ability but the fact she gets along with all her teammates,” O’Leary said.
Out of the nine field players that have started every game, excluding the goalkeeper, DuPre has the least amount of fouls with six.
The other senior starting defenders are in double digits, racking up 69 between the four of them.
O’Leary described DuPre’s style of play as under control. She focuses on not making any unnecessary check and doesn’t want the opposing players to get many free-position shots.
DuPre said the main reason to her is that as a freshman she doesn’t want to make too many mistakes around all the seniors.
“I take less risks than everyone else,” DuPre said. “I think I want to try to play more conservatively because I don’t want to mess up.”
She realizes, though, that messing up is part of the learning process as a freshman.
“I know that if I mess up that they will have my back, always,” DuPre said. “That’s pretty comforting knowing that.”
On ILwomen.com’s website since March 27, 2013.
The Florida Gators starters stood on the sideline, watching on as the second team, full of underclassmen, took care of an overmatched Stetson Hatters team 22-1 on March 19, 2013.
That win capped off a perfect non-conference season with a 12-0 record, the first time in the program’s history. Though there was smiles up and down the sideline that game, the Gators were not close to being satisfied.
The team won’t have satisfaction until it wins a national championship, which is something it fell short of in the Final Four last season against Syracuse.
This is why all the Florida starters wore an identical white t-shirt that had each player’s individual number on it and a simple slogan:
This mantra is what the coaching staff and the players of the Florida Gators deemed as the definition of their 2013 season.
The “unfinished business” refers to a few different things, but three specific goals can be pinpointed for the ’13 campaign.
The first goal was beating the North Carolina Tar Heels. After playing this top-tier squad three years in a row, the Gators never came away with a win.
On Feb. 9, the Gators opened the season in Chapel Hill, N.C., and they came away with a well-fought 5-3 win.
Beat UNC: Check.
The second goal was redeeming themselves from the physical and emotional draining loss to Syracuse in the Final Four, allowing a seven-goal lead slip through their hands.
At Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida took care of ‘Cuse by a score of 14-10.
“I told them to savor the win because they deserve it,” said Florida coach Amanda O’Leary after the game.
Beat the Orange: Check.
Those two goals were conciliation prizes, though, for the actual driving force for this Florida team.
“The phrase “unfinished business” is more about us, and how we didn’t finish what we wanted — a national championship,” senior attacker Gabi Wiegand said.
With 12 of its 31 players seniors, Florida is hungry for the ultimate title, and those seniors will not settle for anything less.
Midway through the season, Florida and its senior class could not be in a better position.
Florida’s squad has a perfect 13-0 record only one game into American Lacrosse Conference play. Five of those wins came against top-20 opponents.
The Gators’ defense has been impeccable thus far with a stellar 5.77 goals allowed per game average. Anchored by seniors Sam Farrell, Jamie Reeg, Emily Dohony and Kayla Stolins, the Gators have forced their opponents to a meager shot percentage of .355 on 211 total shots.
That is also credit to senior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher and her .520 save percentage, which ranks in the top 10 in the country. She also logged over 620 minutes, which is 140 minutes more than any other goalie in the top 10.
Oh, and the offense is pretty good too.
Florida is ranked in the top 10 nationally with 14.77 goals per game. The contributions have come from all over the place, including six players with double-digit goals.
Sophomore Shannon Gilroy leads the team with 34 goals followed by senior attacker Kitty Cullen with 29.
“We are able to use every single player on our offense,” Cullen said, “And that’s what separates us from [other teams] this year.”
Currently ranked at No. 2 in the nation, the Florida Gators, on paper, are in the exact position they need to be.
But O’Leary doesn’t see it that way.
“I don’t think we are nearly where we need to be,” O’Leary said. “We are not ready for the postseason, that’s for sure. I think every team at this point midway through the season is constantly reevaluating their defense and their attack.”
She has a 13-0 team, one of the most explosive offenses and one of the few hard-nosed defenses in the nation, and O’Leary is still not satisfied?
What possibly can this Florida squad do to improve before the ALC Tournament and, more importantly, the NCAA Tournament? Well, two distinct issues do stick out.
First: Florida’s shooting percentage.
The Gators are averaging .481 shot percentage on the season, which is close to the 50 percent mark that assistant coach Erica LaGrow set for the offense at the beginning of the season, but if you analyze game by game, it’s clear that the Gators are consistently inconsistent.
Seven of their 13 games sported a below .500 mark. Since the Gators inaugural season in 2010, 13 of Florida’s 15 losses came when the Gators shot below 50 percent for the match.
What clouds this statistic is the 30.7 shots per game Florida can force. If Florida finds a team that can limit its shots, the Gators will find themselves in trouble.
Second: Hitting lulls.
The Gators continue to find themselves in a spot where they let their opponent go on a string of two or three goals in a row, or where the offense can’t convert a shot.
Most recently in the Ohio State game, the Gators went 21 minutes with 11 shots but no goal to begin the game. Of course, some credit is given to the resilience of OSU’s goalie Tori DeScenza with five saves in that time, but that’s something Florida can’t do.
Game in and game out, the Gators find themselves in a position struggling to find the back of the net for a 5- to 10-minute stretch.
“Hitting that lull… We have to fix that,” O’Leary said. “We can find ourselves in a deep deficit if we get into that again.”
But to reiterate, these are small problems to have, and O’Leary knows her team has a lot to fix over the next few weeks.
The mantra of unfinished business for her doesn’t apply to the entire season but each and every day out on the field.
“When they say unfinished business, I think they mean every single game,” O’Leary said. “I think they always have a game to win, so it’s going to be game-by-game and practice-by-practice.”
In the Independent Florida Alligator paper on March 23, 2013.
Ten minutes into the first half, the Gators found themselves in an unfamiliar position: without a goal on the scoreboard.
At the 20:09 mark, Ohio State grabbed a one-goal lead, and Florida could not capitalize on any opportunity.
The Gators ripped off a total of 11 shots 21 minutes into the game but to no prevail. Previously, 9 minutes and 51 seconds was the longest it took this Florida team to find the back of the net, which was Feb. 9 against UNC.
“It’s definitely frustrating when the opportunities are there,” senior Kitty Cullen said, “And we were just not finishing them.”
Ohio State defender Kelsey Heine pushed midfielder Shannon Gilroy down to the ground, which resulted into a free-position shot. Off the line, Gilroy passed it to senior Caroline Chesterman who threw it in between the Buckeyes goalie’s legs for the Gators first goal.
Forty seconds later, Cullen launched a bouncing shot from 6 meters out, resulting in a 2-1 Florida lead.
Once UF has taken the lead in a game this season, it has not allowed for its opponent to come back into it, and Saturday was no different.
Florida (13-0, 1-0) opened American Lacrosse Conference play on Saturday, beating rival Ohio State (3-5, 0-1) by a score of 13-7.
In the waning minutes of the first half, the Gators finished off a 3-0 run to go in with a 3-1 lead.
“Anytime you can be the last one to score walking into that halftime, it certainly has the momentum going in your direction,” Florida coach Amanda O’Leary said.
It didn’t stop there.
In the first minute of the second half, Gilroy and senior Brittany Dashiell both grabbed quick goals.
After the first goal in the first half, the ball was falling right into the back of the net for Florida.
“We all just took a deep breath, looked at each other and said, ‘We got this,’” Cullen said. “‘We are one of the best offenses in the country. We can finish these shots, and we can do this.’”
After the first 11 shots missing, the Gators converted 13 goals on 22 shots for the rest of the game.
Cullen, Dashiell and Gilroy combined for 11 of the 13 goals on the day.
“They are three people that we rely on week in and week out,” O’Leary said, “And they have delivered in every occasion.”
In the Independent Florida Alligator paper on March 22, 2013.
Florida’s lacrosse team has an offensive motto – achieve a 50 percent shooting mark.
“For our attacking unit, that is our huge motto this year,” senior attacker Kitty Cullen said. “Each game one of our goals is to get 50 percent on our shooting, and so far, we’ve been pretty successful and some not so much.”
Though Florida (12-0) is undefeated, that goal will become even more critical as American Lacrosse Conference play begins against Ohio State (3-4) at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
UF has achieved its goal of shooting 50 percent in half of its games this season.
In wins with that came despite failing to reach the desired mark, the offense understands it did not do its job.
“When we do shoot less than 50 percent, even if we get the win, it’s still a bummer,” Cullen said.
As the competition becomes stiffer, the Gators must find a way to become more efficient on their attack.
“We have to focus on being disciplined on offense and finishing our shots,” sophomore midfielder Nora Barry said.
Barry has been the most efficient shooter on the team, scoring 17 goals on 23 shots. She also has converted all six of her free-position shots.
Her shot percentage is .739 compared to the team’s .489 mark on the season.
“Half the time, if we shoot and miss then they go down to score,” Cullen said. “That’s something going into ALC play that some big opponents can really take advantage of.”
Since 2010, 13 of Florida’s 15 losses came when the Gators had a shooting percentage of less than 50 percent.
The only season the Gators finished with above 50 percent shooting was the 2012 campaign.
“As much as we can, we attempt to go for that 50 percent and above,” coach Amanda O’Leary said. “And I think if we can do that, we are going to find ourselves have more success than if we don’t.”
That efficient mindset that O’Leary is trying to instill goes along with taking the best shot possible and always making that extra pass.
“If they see someone in a better position to shoot, then they are going to dump the ball to them,” O’Leary said. “That says a lot about our offense because they are very unselfish.”
Cullen said that taking a weak shot and not finding the open player is not good in the end because you as a player are taking that possession for granted.
“The key is not to force any shot,” Cullen said, “Just kick it and let someone else shoot.
“It’s important to continue to make every shot count.”
In the Independent Florida Alligator paper on March 20, 2013.
Twenty-two goals and a diamond ring capped a flawless night for Emily Dohony and UF at Dizney Stadium.
During Florida’s post-game exercise, her boyfriend of four years proposed to Dohony with her team, family and fans watching. She said yes.
“This team is my family just as much as my family,” Dohony said.
She was happy about the win, too.
No. 2 Florida (12-0) routed Stetson (0-8) in a 22-1 victory on Tuesday night.
With a 5-0 lead, coach Amanda O’Leary had pulled every single starter out of the game by the 8-minute mark.
The Gators won every statistical category, except saves. Florida took 38 shots. Stetson had one.
Five of UF’s shots came from freshman Hayler Katzenberger, who scored her first three college goals in Florida’s win.
“It was great,” Katzenberger said. “It felt good to finally get some goals in.”
Freshman Lizzie Strazza and sophomore Mikki Offit also tallied their first college goals.
“It is a great thing (to see the freshmen score their first goals),” O’Leary said. “Every one of them were unselfish and that was the key tonight to our success, because we had multiple goal scorers.”
Sophomore Nora Barry led the starters with three goals on three shots. She has scored 17 goals on 23 shots this season.
UF’s 22 goals mark its highest total this year and tied for the third-best mark in program history.
While the offense padded its lead, the defense clamped down.
Anchored by freshman Sam Darcangelo, the Gators held the Hatters to only one goal, which is the lowest total by a UF opponent this year and Florida’s best defensive performance since a shutout against Fresno State on March 28, 2012.
“We’ve been learning a lot from the older girls,” Darcangelo said. “They’ve definitely been helping us a lot, and we’ve been working very hard in practice.”
Darcangelo finished with a career-high six draw controls, stepping up as the draw specialist while sophomore Shannon Gilroy and senior Brittany Dashiell rested.
Florida allowed Stetson to move it to the offensive third of the field only 10 times. Only one Hatters possession ended with a shot. The other nine were turnovers.
“The man-to-man ride against Stetson was a big factor to those turnovers,” O’Leary said. “It just worked out to our favor.”
Stetson is a first-year lacrosse program and is only the third in Florida.
“We know how it feels to be a first-year program,” Dohony said. “It’s a huge step that they are taking, and we see them maybe following us in our shoes one day.”
In the Independent Florida Alligator paper on March 19, 2013.
Senior Brittany Dashiell finished her 2012 campaign in Washington, D.C., as one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, which is given to college lacrosse’s top player each season.
Though she did not take home any hardware, Dashiell entered this year as a prime candidate to receive the award. But her chance of winning the Tewaaraton Award took a hit on March 9.
The senior midfielder suffered a concussion after being hit in the head by an opponent’s stick during No. 2 Florida’s 14-9 victory against Dartmouth on March 9 at Dizney Stadium.
She sat out against Lehigh three days later for precautionary reasons.
Though the Gators breezed their way to an 18-2 win, Dashiell’s absence was felt.
“Even though it wasn’t that tough of an opponent, it was just weird not having her out there,” senior Kitty Cullen said. “It felt off.”
Dashiell missed practice in the weeks following the injury but returned as Florida traveled to face Oregon in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday.
Despite the missed time, coach Amanda O’Leary expected an aggressive effort from Dashiell in the road matchup against the Ducks.
“Brittany just makes those seamless transitions,” O’Leary said of Dashiell’s return to the lineup.
“She could probably take a week off, and it’s not going to affect her. She’s just that good.”
Dashiell responded with three goals, an assist and three draw controls as Florida beat Oregon 13-5.
“She’s one of those players that we rely on and will continue to rely on,” O’Leary said.
Dashiell has battled injuries throughout her career with the Gators.
She missed a game with an undisclosed injury last season and suffered a concussion in 2011.
Cullen, who had a concussion last season, said the key is rest.
“With any sport when you get a concussion, I think it’s very important to take a couple of days and let your brain heal,” Cullen said.
“So it can shut down.”
Now healthy, Dashiell will continue her campaign for the Tewaaraton Award tonight as No. 2 Florida (11-0) faces Stetson (0-7) at 6:30 p.m. at Dizney Stadium.
O’Leary is glad to have one of her top players back on the field as the Gators look to remain unbeaten this season.
“There’s a reason she is on the Tewaaraton watch list, and there was a reason she was on the final list last year,” O’Leary said.
“She’s just the best of the best.”