GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Exactly a month after the Gators’ history-making victory over No. 2 Northwestern on the field at Dizney Stadium, the fourth-seeded Florida lacrosse team made history once again on Saturday evening, as they won their first-ever NCAA Tournament game against the Stanford Cardinal, 13-11. The Gators move on to host the winner of fifth-seeded Duke and Penn, who face off on Sunday, May 15th at 2:00p.m. The Gatorsâ€™ second round matchup against either the Blue Devils or the Quakers will be Saturday, May 21st at 3:00p.m.
The Gators were not only victorious in their first NCAA Tournament appearance, they won the first NCAA Tournament game to ever be played in the state of Florida.
â€œWe were just really excited, obviously,â€ Florida head coach Amanda Oâ€™Leary said. â€œItâ€™s such a new program to make it to the Elite 8, Iâ€™m just really proud of our team, of our coaching staff, of our support staff. It was a great job by Stanford.Â They came out and did a great job defensively against us. Offensively they put a lot of goals in the back of the net and all the credit in the world to Stanford. They did a fantastic job.â€
Florida was led by sophomore midfielder Brittany Dashiell (Bel Air, Md.) who played arguably her most balanced game of the season with five points (three goals and two assists) against the Cardinal, while adding three draw controls, two ground balls and a caused turnover. Sophomore attacker Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.) and sophomore midfielder Janine Hillier (Farmingdale, N.Y.) each had four goals for the Gators, while sophomore attacker Caroline Chesterman (South Nyack, N.Y.) and sophomore midfielder Colby Rhea (Abington, Md.) added a goal apiece.
â€œWe work so hard in the offseason and in the summer,â€ Cullen said. â€œItâ€™s so nice seeing that this year is really paying off. Everything weâ€™ve been doing, waking up on Fridays at 6:00a.m. running Gator Mountains, everything is paying off this season. Itâ€™s just showing how hard work really pays off.â€
Despite hours of rain delay, the Gators came out on fire, scoring four goals in 5:34 to take a quick 4-0 lead to start the contest. Dashiell scored 24 seconds into the game before Cullen scored a hat trick in just over five minutes, giving the Gators a four-goal lead. Stanford began to find their footing, going on a 4-0 run of their own behind Carolyn Bradley, Anna Boeri, Emily Boeri and Karen Nesbitt. Florida was held scoreless for 24 minutes, but Hillier broke the stalemate, scoring from Dashiell with 13 seconds remaining in the half to give the Gators a 5-4 advantage heading into the intermission.
The Gators hadnâ€™t won a second half in their last five games but the Orange and Blue came out of the locker room with determination as Hillier picked up where she left off in the second half, scoring just 20 seconds into the second stanza. It wasnâ€™t long before Dashiell found the back of the net again just 22 seconds later to put the Gators ahead, 7-4. Stanford staged a comeback of their own, rattling off four straight, including three consecutive goals off the stick of Lauren Schmidt to take their first lead of the game at 8-7.
Dashiell scored off free position to knot the game at 8-8 before the Cardinalâ€™s Anna Kim found the back of the cage from Nesbitt to take their final lead of the contest before Florida gained the momentum back. Rhea scored off a perfect feed from Dashiell to tie the game at 10 apiece before Chesterman scored her first free position goal of the season to take the lead at 10-9. Stanfordâ€™s Sarah Flynn tied the game for the final time with her unassisted goal before Hillier went on a tear, scoring back-to-back goals in less than two minutes to put Florida ahead, 12-10.
Hillier has been on a hot streak as of late, scoring 12 goals on her last 19 shots for a .632 shooting average and a .789 shot on goal percentage. Foard scored from free position to put the Cardinal within one, 12-11. Cullen ripped the final goal of the evening, a sidearm shot from nearly 12 meters away, to give Florida a 13-11 advantage with 10:15 remaining in the contest.
The Gators then went on the defensive, led by sophomore goalkeeper Mikey Meagherâ€™s (Liverpool, N.Y.) eight second-half saves, as Florida was able to hold off a Stanford offense that is ranked No. 2 in the country. The Gators stalled for the final 4:43, executing a flawless stall which forced five Stanford fouls and a yellow card, Florida never lost possession and kept the ball moving around the field in the closing minutes, leading to a standing ovation from the Gator crowd.
â€œTo finish the game with the ball in our stick and be able to control the momentum at that point, I think was critical,â€ Oâ€™Leary said.
Florida outshot Stanford, 27-26, and won the game on the ground, 15-14. The Gators had 13 turnovers to the Cardinalâ€™s 15 and Meagherâ€™s 11 saves marked her fourth game of the season with double-digit saves.
The Gators await their next opponent, either the No. 5 seed Duke Blue Devils or the Quakers of Penn, but Florida will host their second round game at 3:00p.m. on Saturday, May 21st at Dizney Stadium. Fans can visit Floridaâ€™s NCAA Tournament page <http://www.gatorzone.com/lacrosse/tour/ncaa/2011/>Â Â (http://www.gatorzone.com/lacrosse/tour/ncaa/2011/ <http://www.gatorzone.com/lacrosse/tour/ncaa/2011/> ) for all information regarding next Saturdayâ€™s NCAA Tournament matchup.