via press releases, photo by Tim Casey
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — One of the head coaches taking part in Sunday’s second-round NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Championship game had this to say.
“It was great to see our game plan executed at the highest level and have such dominant draw possessions that allowed us to win the possession battle,” Jacksonville’s Mindy McCord said. “We did a great job getting extra possessions and did a good job putting together goals in the first half and making key saves and getting good looks on goal all day long.”
Before going any further, it’s worth noting those McCord remarks actually came March 13 after her Dolphins shocked No. 5 Florida for the biggest win in that program’s history. In that game, JU dominated UF on the draw, took more shots and eventually won by a single goal.
Fast forward to present day. The coach on the other side of the field had this to say.
“Our draw team did a fantastic job,” Gators coach Amanda O’Leary said. “Obviously getting possession of the ball is a huge part, you know, of winning the game.”
Indeed, you can’t score without the ball, and UF’s draw control was as big a key as anything to the sixth-seeded Gators avenging that humbling regular-season setback against the Dolphins — one of just two losses during the 2021 campaign — with one of their most complete and one-sided victories of the season, a 17-3 romp at Dizney Stadium. Florida pounced early, scoring the game’s first four goals, building a 10-1 lead late in the first half and easily reaching the Elite Eight for the first time since 2018.
The Gators (18-2) will take a 15-game winning streak into next weekend’s road date at No. 3-seed Syracuse (15-3) in the national quarterfinals. UF’s last loss, in fact, was that 12-11 setback against JU more than two months ago. In that one, the Dolphins enjoyed an 18-6 advantage on the draw, out-shot the Gators 31-21, and rallied from an early 3-0 deficit by scoring seven of the eight goals (including five straight) during a stretch that bridged the two halves, then stared down a late UF rally that fell (take your pick) one goal/one draw short.
Such wasn’t the case in Sunday’s revenge rout.
“It’s tough to get a loss, but they’re a good team,” senior attacker Grace Haus said. “It was nice to get some redemption and beat them.”
Haus whisked in a career-high seven goals, plus an assist to take top individual honors on this sun-splashed afternoon. The tone, though, was set once again by standout senior midfielder Shannon Kavanagh, who had three goals and an assist, but also was responsible for seven of Florida’s 15 wins on the draw, compared to just seven for the Dolphins (12-2). And with those controls, UF was able to take aim at JU’s two keepers with a 35-17 shot advantage.
And while draws were a big part of the victorious equation, they were far from the only part. The Gators won just eight of the 13 in the first half, yet led 10-2 at the break because of their precision and aggression on the offensive end (UF went 6 for 10 on free-position shots through the first 30 minutes), plus teamwork and connectivity on the defensive end, starring redshirt freshman keeper Sarah Reznick, who had nine saves before being pulled with less than two minutes remaining.
“I thought we were much more composed than the last game,” O’Leary said.
And, not coincidentally, much, much better.
A case can surely be made the Gators are playing their best across-the-board lacrosse of the season at the right time. They’ll need to, of course, what with the Orangemen up next. Should UF be fortunate enough to survive that one, No. 2 seed Northwestern, unbeaten and with seven NCAA titles on its resume, is at the other end of the bracket.
Florida never has made it to the NCAA final, but it’s likely top-ranked and unbeaten North Carolina (19-0) will be there. The Tar Heels handed the Gators their only other loss of the season, an 11-5 defeat back on Feb. 19.
UF would love to get a chance to avenge that one, too.
“You want to improve throughout he season, and I think this showed tremendous growth by our team,” O’Leary said. “The fact we lost 12-11 [last time] and came out and dominated for a good portion of this game, that shows a lot of growth, and that we’re peaking at the right time.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville women’s lacrosse team (12-2) season came to a close after a 17-3 loss to the Florida Gators (18-2) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Florida held JU to seven total draw controls to control the offense and pull away with the victory.
The Gators made it on to the board first by scoring on a free position shot, to take a quick 1-0. Back-to-back goals followed by a second free position goal would extend Florida’s lead, 4-0.
Sarah Elms broke the Gators scoring run after finding the net for her 59th goal of the season, making the score 4-1. The Gators responded by going on a 6-0 run, to get its team to double digits.
At the 3:17 mark, Mackenzie Boyle cut Florida’s lead to 10-2, after putting the ball past the Gator’s goalie. The score would remain this way going into halftime.
The second half began in a similar fashion, as the Gators scored in the first three minutes to pull ahead, 11-2. At the 22:13 mark, Elms answered on a free position shot to score her second of the day and bring the score to 11-3.
Florida pushed past the Dolphin defenders to go on another 6-0 scoring run, as JU was unable to come up with any additional goals. The unstoppable Florida offense helped the Gators secure the victory.
Despite the loss, JU played one of its most historical season. Post-season accolades include the programs seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament followed by the programs first-ever second round appearance. The regular season began with the program’s first win against a top ranked opponent and ended with the program’s seventh ASUN Conference tournament championship. Individual awards include, Elms being the fifth Dolphin named ASUN Player of the Year and Molly Brock also being the fifth Dolphin named Defensive Player of the Year.
“We are not going to let one loss define who we are,” head coach Mindy McCord said. “It was a truly historical season and we know what to work on for next year.”