No. 4 Florida drops No. 10 Penn State
O’Leary collects 200th coaching victory for the Gators
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 4 Florida won its eighth consecutive game on Sunday afternoon, taking down No. 10 Penn State, 20-11, to remain perfect in American Lacrosse Conference play since the start of 2011. With the win, the Gators improve to 12-2 (2-0 ALC), while the Nittany Lions drop to 8-3 (1-1 ALC).
Both teams wore pink during warm-ups to help recognize Cancer Awareness Day, as today’s game was Florida’s “Beat Cancer with a Stick” game, coordinated by the National Foundation for Cancer Research. The game was put together to promote health education in the community while raising funds to help eradicate cancer.
“I think it is incredibly important (to recognize such an important cause),” said Head Coach Amanda O’Leary. “Anytime we can bring something onto the national spotlight, I think it is tremendous. Today it was nice to see Penn State out in their pink. We are really appreciative of them coming down and supporting cancer awareness. Also, we have some players where it hits close to home and I thought it was a great tribute and one that I am really proud to be a part of.”
With today’s win, O’Leary became just the 12th coach in NCAA history to capture 200 Division I victories, doing so in just 279 games in the past 17 seasons, sitting among the best of the best with a .717 career winning percentage.
“It felt really good,” said today’s leading scorer Shannon Gilroy. “She’s a great coach and she just enjoys lacrosse and us. It’s great to win it for her.”
“You credit the student-athletes,” O’Leary said. “You credit these young women who work so hard day in and day out. These victories aren’t self-earned; we have a great support staff with Karen Werth and Anna Hale as our trainer and Caleb (Sorgius) as our academic advisor. This is a total team win. You don’t get those as head coaches without tremendous assistant coaches and I really feel blessed. The University of Florida provides all of these opportunities to earn 200 wins, so I have to credit everyone else. It is a great opportunity.”
Freshman Shannon Gilroy led the Gators with five goals on the afternoon, including 3-for-3 from free position, and tied her own school record with seven draw controls. Ashley Bruns followed with four goals, three ground balls and two draw controls, and Brittany Dashiell notched two goals, a team-high three assists, and four draw controls.
“Shannon had a spectacular game today,” O’Leary said. “She is just one of those players that is just special. She is strong, she has a great stick and she has a nose for the goal. When you put all that together, there are a lot of special things that can happen. I though she played really well today.”
Freshmen Nicole Graziano and Nora Barry, who combined for 12 points on Wednesday, each scored three goals, and Graziano had two assists, while Barry added an assist and two draw controls. Gabi Wiegand added two more goals, and Caroline Chesterman had the remaining tally, adding three ground balls and a draw control.
Mikey Meagher got the win for the Gators, making seven saves and allowing the first nine goals in 47:36, adding three ground balls, and Cara Canington allowed the final two goals in 12:24 of relief.
Reigning ALC Goalie of the Year Dana Cahill stopped 12 shots in the game, but allowed all 20 goals in the complete game. Theresa Zichelli led the Nittany Lions with three goals, and Molly Fernandez added two more. Two-time ALC Player of the Week Tatum Coffey was tops on the team with three draw controls, two ground balls and two caused turnovers, adding one goal.
Penn State got off to a hot start, scoring two early goals in the first three minutes of play. The Nittany Lions’ second-leading scorer Maggie McCormick assist senior Aly Adams for the first goal at 28:52, and Theresa Zichelli notched the first of three on the afternoon just 29 seconds later.
Bruns got the Gators started on an unassisted goal at 27:08, but Kelly Lechner scored a free-position goal at 25:29 to put the Nittany Lions back ahead, 3-1.
The Gators rebounded quickly, scoring six consecutive goals in the next 10 minutes, including four consecutive man-up goals, to take a 7-3 lead, and they never trailed through the rest of the game.
“We did get down early, and in years past that may have been a problem,” O’Leary said, “but this team just thinks of it as one goal at a time and they have come back from those deficits. I think we showed a lot of maturity to be able to come back from that.”
“It was huge,” Bruns said of rebounding from the early deficit. “We’ve been working all year on staying in the game and not letting down or going into lulls, and I think this game we didn’t let it affect us at all and we came up with a really big win.”
Molly Fernandez broke the Nittany Lions’ scoring drought with a free-position goal at 14:27, but UF followed with a 3-0 run to make it 10-4.
McCormick notched another PSU free-position goal at 3:49, which Wiegand followed with an unassisted goal just in a minute later. With two seconds to go in the half, Kelly Lechner flipped to older sister Shannon Lechner for a Nittany Lion goal to give Penn State some momentum heading into the locker room, still trailing 11-6.
The Gators came out of the break ready for action, as Nicole Graziano scored two quick goals just in two minutes after the start of the stanza. The Nittany Lions scored two of the next three goals, but the Gators closed out the game on a 6-3 run, reaching 20 goals in conference play for the first time, for a final score of 20-11.
“It was a great win,” said Gilroy. “We knew they were going to come out really hard and physical, and we were prepared. We just had to be prepared to pass the ball so we didn’t get doubled, and we took advantage of those shots when they were fouled.”