Florida hangs on against Albany
Gators extend win streak to 14 games with 6-4 victory
Florida extended its winning steak to 14 on Saturday, outlasting the Albany’s offensive stall technique in a 6-4 victory in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The Gators are now 2-0 in NCAA first-round competition, and will move on to host fellow ALC member Penn State next Saturday in the NCAA Quarterfinals. With the win Florida improves to 18-2, while UAlbany finishes the season at 12-6.
|GET CAUGHT UP|
|• Championship Info|
“Credit Albany for just a fantastic job today,” Head Coach Amanda O’Leary said. “They came in here with a ton of heart. They were scrappy. John [Battaglino] came in with a team that was incredibly prepared to play. So credit Albany for a great game.
“I’m really proud of our kids as well. I think they came out and they competed. I don’t think everything went as we had scripted, but still competed hard, played hard, and came out with a win.”
Shannon Gilroy followed her outstanding performance against Northwestern with another solid outing in the midfield, leading the Gators with five draw controls and two goals, and helping UF to earn a 10-2 advantage on draws. Kitty Cullen put up a goal and an assist, and Nora Barry, Brittany Dashiell and Nicole Graziano each added a goal.
The Gators defense was lights out once again, holding its opponent to single digits for the 16th time this season. Kayla Stolins led the charge with three of the Gators’ 10 caused turnovers, marking the third consecutive game in which Florida caused at least 10 turnovers. Mikey Meagher held firm in the cage, making five saves while allowing just four goals.
Jess Antelmi led the Great Danes with three of UAlbany’s five points, notching two goals and an assist. Mel Rorie caused three turnovers for the Great Danes, and Anna Berman made three saves, allowed six goals, and tabbed a game-leading five ground balls.
Nora Barry won the opening draw, and just 36 seconds into the postseason, Ashley Bruns passed up to Barry at the top of the arc, who drove through the UAlbany defense and buried the ball in the back of the net.
Florida won the next draw, but a turnover created by Anna Berman gave UAlbany its first possession, which the Great Danes intended to hold onto. Throughout the entire game, UA took its time with the ball on offense, maintaining the ball for several minutes at a time without making a direct move to the goal.
“It was a great gameplan, clearly,” O’Leary said. “They were able to maintain possession. They worked for the perfect shot and a bunch of times they were able to convert on it. I think it’s a great game plan. It worked.”
Trailing 1-0, the Great Danes held the ball for more than six minutes, before a foul in the arc sent Ariana Parker to the line on free position. Meagher made her first save of the day, and soon the ball was back in UF’s hands.
The Gators did not waste any time once the ball was in their possession, and just 11 seconds after the successful clear, Bruns found Dashiell right in front of the net, sending a one-timer into the cage for goal number two at 22:18.
The Great Danes continued to slow down the pace of the game, but midway through the first half, the Gators were able to score two quick goals. At 16:35, Cullen found Gilroy in the middle, who ducked an attacker’s stick, pulled off a spin move through a double team, and while still maintaining possession, found the back of the net. Nicole Graziano then beat out a one-on-one run from the 30 just over two minutes later, to give Florida an early 4-0 lead.
UAlbany’s defense succeeded in keeping Florida off the board for the remaining 14 minutes of the half, and with 11:28 to go in the period, Jess Antelmi was able to drive the ball around the goal circle and bounced in the Great Danes’ first goal of the afternoon.
Ariana Parker won the opening draw of the second half, and after a scoreless 13-and-a-half minutes of play, Antelmi sent a one-timer to Amanda Pollock, who cut Florida’s lead to two, 4-2.
Haydon Judge won the ensuing draw, and after nearly 30 minutes without a Gator goal, Shannon Gilroy netted a free-position goal at 15:19. Less than two minutes later, Cullen drove in from out to the left, splitting a strong defensive attempt, to net her first goal of the afternoon and put Florida back ahead by four, 6-2.
Florida continued to dominate on the draw, but UAlbany’s patient possessions kept the ball out of Florida’s prolific attackers’ sticks.
“When they do that, it is really important to continue talking to each other,” said junior defender Sam Farrell, “keeping the energy up and continue working for each other. [We] just need to know at any minute they are going to get us in a lull and they are trying to slow us down and at any minute they can go to goal. We just have to be ready for that.”
As the clocked ticked down, the Great Danes’ patience continued to pay off, as UA worked at chipping away at Florida’s lead. Ariana Parker netted a free-position goal at 7:29, and with 4:23 remaining in regulation, Antelmi bounced in her second goal of the day to cut the score to 6-4.
The final four minutes of the game had a differerent rhythm, as the Great Danes needed to speed up their attack and play with a greater sense of urgency. However, this resulted in a combined five turnovers and just one shot, by Florida’s Shannon Gilroy, and as the clock ran to zero, UF came out on top with a final score of 6-4.
The Gators return to action Saturday, May 19, to host ALC rival Penn State, which defeated No. 8 Towson on Saturday, in the NCAA quarterfinals. It marks the second consecutive season that Florida has hosted both of the first two rounds. Florida will be in search of its first national semifinals appearance when the opening whistle blows at 12:30 p.m.