Balanced attack powers Florida to rout of Northwestern in battle of top-five teams
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- As 13 seniors played their final regular-season home game, No. 3 Florida rose to the challenge as it overwhelmed No. 4 Northwestern 22-4 on Saturday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. With the win, Florida shares a portion of the ALC title with the Wildcats, marking their third consecutive regular-season championship in its four-year history.
The Gators (16-1, 4-1 ALC) hand the two-time defending national champion Wildcats (13-2, 4-1 ALC) their most lopsided loss in program history on a flurry of goals, shooting 22-for-28 (.785). UF was led by sophomore midfielder Shannon Gilroy, who scored seven points (five goals, two assists) while six other Gators scored multiple goals.
“This group has worked so hard day in and day out and it’s just a testament to our seniors,” head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “For them to come out and play the way they did and with the supporting cast, I thought it was just a great job by everyone.”
Senior attack Gabi Weigand added five points (four goals, one assist) while senior midfielder Brittany Dashiell became the first Gator to record 200 career draw controls. Dashiell recorded a team-high seven draws for a consecutive game and paired it with a hat trick to help the Gators extend their home win streak to 18.
Senior attacks Kitty Cullen and Ashley Bruns each had three goals while Cullen dished out two assists to help Florida match its season-high in goals with 22. Senior attack Caroline Chesterman and sophomore midfielder Nora Barry each had two goals to round out the scoring.
Florida got off to a quick start with Gilroy scoring just 30 seconds into the contest. Wiegand scored just 31 seconds later. They scored five unanswered goals before Northwestern’s Taylor Thornton got on the board on a free position with 17:59 to play. Cullen and Bruns, assisted by Barry, scored back-to-back 11 seconds apart, to put their team up 8-1.
UF assisted on 11 goals on the afternoon, marking a season-high and tied for the second-most in a single game in program history. Dashiell led the way with a career-high three assists while Barry, Cullen and Gilroy each found teammates on two.
Northwestern scored its only other goal of the game on an Erin Fitzgerald free position with 13:24 to play as the Orange and Blue closed the half on a 5-0 run, taking a 13-2 lead at the break. UF opened the second half with goals from Wiegand and Dashiell before NU’s Fitzgerald found the back of the net again with 24:47 to play.
UF’s defense didn’t disappoint either as it forced eight turnovers and held the Wildcats to just four shots in the second half. Senior defender Kayla Stolins and junior defender Krista Grabher each caused two turnovers with Dashiell and Barry each picking up three ground balls. Senior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher recorded five saves in the net for the Gators.
“I thought we did a great job all around on defense,” O’Leary said. “We had early slides all-around on their best attackers and Mikey played a great game in goal, so I think it was a total team effort.”