#2 Gators Fall to Penn State in NCAA First Round 14-13 in OT

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via press release   GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It was a game of inches and seconds Sunday in Florida’s NCAA Tournament Second Round game at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. Ultimately, the Penn State Nittany Lions (13-6) netted the goal that counted in a 14-13 overtime win against the No. 2 Seed Gators (18-2) to advance to the NCAA Quarterfinals next weekend.
A total of 10 ties — five in each half — laced the battle at The Diz as the two teams squared off on a hot day in Gainesville for the right to be one of eight standing following Sunday’s games. It took sudden-death overtime to determine the winner and PSU emerged victorious with 2:45 left on the clock. Florida out-shot Penn State, 39-23, and won the draw control battle on the day, 16-14, but the Nittany Lions won arguably the two most important draws in OT. Penn State worked to an 8-7 lead at the half in regulation, just the second time Florida trailed at the half all season (Maryland), but the Gators were up for the challenge. Just 40 seconds into the second half, redshirt senior Tewaaraton Award Finalist Nicole Graziano struck with the equalizer. Penn State didn’t back down. The two squads traded scores for a 10-10 tie before PSU went up 12-10, then it was Florida’s turn for a three-goal splurge for the 13-12 lead. Jenna Mosketti tied the game 13-13 with 11:21 in regulation. Florida stalled, setting up for the final shot of the game. After an unsuccessful UF free-position attempt with 21 ticks on the clock, freshman Sydney Pirreca had 11 seconds to get a shot off. The dribbler hugged the goal line, flirted with the turf on the other side, toyed with the Gator players and crowd, but was ultimately ruled a PSU save that sent the game into OT. A stick check and ensuing illegal stick for PSU just over two minutes into overtime gave the Gators possession and a man-up opportunity with 3:52 on the clock, but Florida couldn’t capitalize. The two teams went even after a UF yellow card at 3:13. Penn State won the draw control after the break at 3:00 and the rest is history. It took 15 seconds for Steph Lazo to net the game-winner for Penn State, a heartbreaking finish for Florida. While the outcome didn’t fall the Gators’ way, Florida fought until the end. A career-tying day for Shayna Pirreca with four goals, a hat trick from Lindsey Ronbeck, a career high five draw controls for junior Mollie Stevens — who became the third Gator this season to hit 100 career goals Sunday — a season tying five draw controls for Graziano and a career high 48:13 in the cage for freshman keeper Haley Hicklen were all highlights of Florida’s day. Following Sunday’s affair, Florida finished the season 1-1 in overtime games, 0-2 when trailing at the half, 6-6 in NCAA play all-time and 6-2 against ranked opponents in 2016. Despite the fact that a bid to Florida’s fifth NCAA Quarterfinals fell short, it was an impressive year for the Gators, who finished at 18-2 (.900) for the second-best win percentage in program history. UF went undefeated in BIG EAST play to sweep both the regular season and tournament titles, head coach Amanda O’Leary notched win No. 100 at Florida and three Gators cruised to 100-goal milestones (Graziano, Sammi Burgess and Stevens). Senior goalkeeper Mary-Sean Wilcox ranks second all-time in career saves for Florida (278), the Orange and Blue dominated five of the six major conference awards and a senior class of 10 Gators — all of whom walked in graduation two weeks ago, four cum laude, one master’s — finish their careers in Gainesville at 69-14 (.831). While Sunday was a heartbreaker for Florida, there’s much to be proud of after a season boasting a long list of accomplishments. O’LEARY ANALYSIS “There is no blame on anyone, we told our team to get off the line quickly (on the final draw), they did and unfortunately we just left two (PSU players) back wide open. It’s one of those plays we had to compete for. I thought we played really hard and competed on that last draw. I was really happy with the shots we had today. Credit their goalie, she played a phenomenal game and made the saves when she needed to in the last couple minutes of the game. I can’t say enough about their goalie play.” “Certainly, nobody wants to lose at this point. I credit our senior class. They are such an amazing group of young women. What they have done with this team — I credit them with their leadership and their love for their teammates. They brought us together and our team chemistry was second-to-none. In that locker room after the game there were a lot of sad faces, but those seniors stepped up, they had some incredible words of wisdom for the younger players. I can’t say enough about them, they will be missed.” SENIOR CAPTAIN LAUREN LEA On today’s game: “It’s incredibly tough. You never expect to lose this early. We expected to go all the way to the national championship. You have to take it one game at a time and play each game as if it’s your last. I don’t think we played as hard as we could have in the first half and Penn State ran away with it a little bit. It all comes down to the final seconds and we couldn’t come up with the win today.” On Penn State and how they played the Gators: “It’s mental toughness, it’s heart, it’s grit. They came out expecting to beat us, and they did.” PENN STATE HEAD COACH MISSY DOHERTY “Florida is awesome, they are a great team. I think we match up well with them in terms of effort and hustle. We knew coming into this game that it was going to be a grudge match. It was just a matter of who was going to score last. You can’t go into a game like this thinking you can’t compete. Our styles of play are very similar, we both have a lot of scorers and we try to be aggressive defensively. We knew we could do it — we’ve had big games all year. Our Big Ten schedule did a lot for us to prepare us for a big game. Thankfully it came out on our end. It’s never easy to play here and the girls did a great job.” On Penn State’s defensive stops: “Our defense ended up making some great stops to finish the game and did a good job of coming up with stops when we really needed them.” On goalkeeper Emi Smith’s play: “That’s how you win those games, taking the shots away and making the saves at critical times.” SEASON NOTABLES
  • Three Gators eclipsed 100 career goals this season (Graziano, Burgess, Stevens) to become the sixth, seventh and eighth in program history to do so
  • The Orange and Blue also moved to 5-2 all-time against Penn State as the Nittany Lions won their first game ever in Gainesville
  • The Gators boast the BIG EAST Most Outstanding Player (Nicole Graziano), Midfielder of Year (Graziano), Co-Attacker of Year (Sammi Burgess), Defensive Player of Year (Caroline Fitzgerald), Freshman of Year (Lindsey Ronbeck) and Co-Coaching Staff of the Year. Florida had seven players named all-conference and has two Tewaaraton Award Top-25 Nominees in Graziano and Fitzgerald
  • Just Friday, six Gators were named IWLCA All-South Region, including four First Team selections in Graziano, Burgess, Taylor Bresnahan and Fitzgerald. Ronbeck and sophomore Shayna Pirreca were Second Team selections
  • Five players were named to the BIG EAST All-Tournament Team last week in Washington, DC, including MOP Graziano, Burgess, Lauren Lea and a pair of freshmen in Sydney Pirreca and Haley Hicklen
  • Florida went a perfect 7-0 in BIG EAST play, then swept through the conference tournament to win both the regular season and tourney titles, their sixth and fourth, respectively
  • Heading into NCAA play, Florida ranked No. 4 in the country in win percentage (.947), No. 7 in scoring margin (6.26/g), No. 8 in save percentage (.502), No. 9 in scoring offense (13.37/g), No. 10 in scoring defense (7.11/g), No. 13 in points per game (19.00/g), No. 17 in assists per game (5.63/g), 21st in free-position percentage (.467) and 22nd in ground balls per game (18.37/g)