The No. 17 Florida lacrosse team, led by the school-record tying six goals by sophomore Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.), defeated the No. 20 (Inside Lacrosse/deBeer Media Poll) Denver Pioneers, 15-7, on Sunday afternoon in front of a crowd of 687 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.Â Â
Cullen notched eight points overall on Sunday, good for third in program history, while recording a .600 shooting percentage. National Rookie of the Year Ashley Bruns (Ellicott City, Md.) had seven points on the afternoon, scoring a hat trick while also notching a career-high tying four assists. Sophomores Colby Rhea (Abington, Md.) and Brittany Dashiell (Bel Air, Md.) had two goals apiece while junior Caroline Cochran (Annapolis, Md.) and sophomore Janine Hillier (Farmingdale, N.Y.) each added one.Â Â
The Gator defense had its best performance of the season, as Florida caused eight turnovers to Denverâ€™s two, while grabbing 15 ground balls. The Orange and Blue won the game on the draw, notching 13 draw controls.
Â â€œThis was certainly our best defensive performance of the season,â€ Florida Head Coach Amanda Oâ€™Leary said. â€œEspecially in the first half, we were really reading their offense and not allowing them to get shots off.â€
Â Denver only had three shots in the first half. Floridaâ€™s defensive prowess allowed the offense to shine, as Florida scored seven goals on 15 shots in the first half.Â
Cullen got her first score less than a minute into Sundayâ€™s action, finding the back of the net only 42 seconds into the game. Bruns scored less than a minute later to give the Gators an early lead, 2-0. Bruns and Cullen met up for the next score, as Cullen fed Bruns the ball on the lefthand side of the goal to put the Gators ahead, 3-0, before the teams held each other scoreless for nearly 10 minutes.
Â In the 15th minute, Bruns found Dashiell at the top of the crease for the Gatorsâ€™ fourth goal of the afternoon. The momentumÂ continued the Gatorsâ€™ way as Cochran found Rhea 90 seconds later to give the Gators a 5-0 lead. Bruns then found the back of the net on her own to put the Gators ahead, 6-0. Denver was able to stop Floridaâ€™s run with a goal of their own by Kara Secora, but Cullen found the back of the net 10 seconds later thanks to a feed by Cochran. Heading into halftime, Florida was ahead, 7-1.Â
Cochran and Cullen matched up again coming out of intermission, with Cullen finding Cochran at the edge of the crease for a score that came 17 seconds into the action. Bruns and Dashiell then connected for their second score of the game to put the Gators ahead, 9-1.
Â Denver found the back of the net but Hillierâ€™s goal at the 10:45 mark sparked a 5-0 Florida run, which included half of Cullenâ€™s goals as well as a Rhea score from Bruns. Cullenâ€™s goal to give the Gators their first double-digit lead of the afternoon was assisted by redshirt freshman Hayley Katzenberger (Damascus, Md.), who scored her first point in the Orange and Blue. Florida allowed another Denver goal before Cullen got her final score of the afternoon, a driving shot as Cullen cut through the Pioneersâ€™ defense.
Denver rattled off four straight goals in the final five minutes of the contest but it wasnâ€™t enough as the Gators came away with the victory and improved to 2-1 on the season.
Florida returns to the friendly confines of Dizney Stadium on Wednesday night as the Gators take on the UMBC Retrievers at 6:30 p.m. Fans can check out streaming video and audio on www.GatorZone.com as Andrew Suarez and Michael Gillespie will be on the call.