Gainesville, Fla. – The No. 5 Florida lacrosse team pulled out a nail-biter on Saturday, defeating No. 19 Johns Hopkins, 13-12, in double overtime to claim the program’s first-ever overtime victory. The Gators led by as much as four goals in the game, but trailed by one in the final seconds of regulation, managing to pull off one of the most dramatic victories in team history. The win extends Florida’s winning streak to nine games, sitting at 13-2 overall and 3-0 in ALC play, while the Blue Jays drop to 7-4 (0-2 ALC).
“I think it just says a lot about our players,” said Head Coach Amanda O’Leary. “We were down with 10 seconds left, and the fact that we were able to convert and then obviously to pull it out at the end, I was just really, really impressed with our players. I thought they did a fantastic job. It was certainly a team effort out there today, and I thought they showed a lot of grit.”
After missing the past two games, Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md,) returned to the field to lead the Gators with four goals in the contest. Freshman Nora Barry (Marcellus, N.Y.) followed with three goals, and classmate Shannon Gilroy (Northport, N.Y.) scored a pair of goals and four draw controls.
Nicole Graziano (Mendham, N.J.) recorded a goal and two assists to go along with two ground balls, a draw control and a team-high two caused turnovers. Ashley Bruns (Ellicott City, Md.) and Brittany Dashiell (Bel Air, Md.) each notched a goal and an assist, and Dashiell added four draw controls. Gabi Wiegand (Bay Shore, N.Y.) scored the game-tying goal at the end of regulation, and Haydon Judge (Chestertown, Md.) put up her second assist of the season off a caused turnover. Additionally, Kayla Stolins (Glen Arm, Md.) earned three draw controls.
“Hopkins played great,” said O’Leary. “They just really stepped up. I thought between Candace (Rossi) and Colleen (McCaffrey), and really across the board, with Taylor (D’Amore) and Rachel (Serio). That is such a great offensive group of individuals and they just put it together today. They exploited our weaknesses.”
Johns Hopkins sophomore Taylor D’Amore had a career day, registering two goals and all five of the Blue Jays’ assists. Colleen McCaffrey and Candace Rossi both scored three goals apiece, and Sammy Cermack notched two huge goals at the end of the game, Additionally, Rossi notched five draw controls and D’Amore recorded four.
“I do think Kayla (Stolins) did a nice job of shutting her down at the end,” O’Leary said when asked about Taylor D’Amore, “but the fact that she can have two players on her and still be able to find the free player. I just was really impressed with Taylor’s performance today, but I mean I was impressed with all of them. Colleen McCaffrey off ball I thought was fantastic. She just did such a nice job of creating things off ball, but also when she had the ball. She had some great goals and certainly exploited the fact that we weren’t doubling early enough and soon enough.”
Goalies Mikey Meagher (Liverpool, N.Y.) and KC Emerson each had nine saves in the full 66:58, and Emerson added five ground balls.
The Blue Jays struck first, as Colleen McCaffrey worked a spin move from the right side for an early goal at 28:35. Kitty Cullen replied with a free-position goal at 27:53, her 50th point of the season, but Johns Hopkins went back ahead, 3-1, on back-to-back goals by D’Amore and McCaffrey.
The two teams traded points over the next 11 minutes, giving the Blue Jays a 5-3 advantage with 13 minutes to go in the first half.
At 12:42, Brittany Dashiell netted a one-timer from Nicole Graziano, which sparked a game-changing run for the Gators. Shannon Gilroy tied the score at 12:22, converting a pass from Dashiell, and Kitty Cullen netted an unassisted goal at 6:28, driving through a triple-team defense inside the arc, to give the Gators their first lead of the afternoon, heading into the intermission up 6-5.
The second half began with a scoring drought that lasted close to 13 minutes. KC Emerson came up with a big save, but for the second time in the game, she was unable to clear it, as Haydon Judge intercepted the pass and flipped to a wide-open Bruns for the Gators’ seventh goal at 17:17. Kitty Cullen netted another unassisted goal at 16:44, and Nora Barry potted a free-position goal at 16:00 to hand the Gators their largest lead of the day, ahead 9-5.
Johns Hopkins refused to back down, and just six seconds later, Candace Rossi won the draw control and netted the first Blue Jays goal in 28 minutes. The JHU tally sparked a 3-goal run which brought the Blue Jays within one, 9-8.
Alyssa Kildare headed to the sidelines with a yellow card at 8:08, and just under a minute later, Nicole Graziano intercepted a clear attempt by Emerson and scored goal number 10 for the Gators.
Taylor D’Amore kept Hopkins in the game, netting a crossing shot from the left side at 5:55, to once again pull within one. Then, just 51 seconds later, D’Amore found an open Sammy Cermack, who slipped one past the Gators’ defense to tie the score for the first time since the middle of the first half, knotted 10-10.
Candace Rossi won the ensuing draw control, and after running several minutes off the clock, she found her opportunity and netted the go-ahead goal for the Blue Jays with 1:13 to go in regulation.
Shannon Gilroy controlled the next draw, but the Gators had a free-position goal waved off with 34 seconds to go, returning possession to Johns Hopkins.
“We knew that it was just another obstacle that we were going to have to overcome during the game,” said Cullen, “and we had faith that we were going to get it back and get another one right away.”
The Blue Jays seemingly had it in the bag, but Jamie Reeg (Atlantis, Fla.) forced a turnover on JHU’s clear attempt, giving the Gators another chance to tie it. Florida’s first shot went wide, but with seven seconds to go, Gabi Wiegand set up on the 8-meter arc for a free-position attempt. Wiegand took two steps and laced in the game-tying goal to send Florida to its second overtime game of the season.
Kayla Stolins won the opening draw of overtime, but a huge save by KC Emerson on a Kitty Cullen free-position attempt gave possession to the Blue Jays, and 2:26 into OT, Sammy Cermack scored her second goal of the day, assisted by D’Amore, to give JHU the first advantage, 12-11.
With 34 seconds left in the first half of overtime, Shannon Gilroy won the draw and drove the ball downfield, Her initial shot was wide, but Caroline Chesterman (South Nyack, N.Y.) backed up the play and came up with the ground ball with 17 seconds to go. Chesterman passed up to Cullen, who drove the ball past several defenders and found the back of the net with just five seconds remaining in the half.
Nicole Graziano won the opening draw of the second half of overtime, and the Gators brought the ball down to Blue Jay territory and stalled. After running the majority of the time off the clock, Florida went for the goal, but the Hopkins defense held solid, not allowing the Gators to get a shot off. A foul on Sammy Cermack with one second remaining gave Florida the chance to end it, but Dashiell’s shot careened wide, and the game headed into sudden-death double overtime.
Taylor D’Amore controlled the opening draw of double overtime, but a huge turnover caused by Sally Jentis (Ridgewood, N.J.) on the defensive end put the ball back in Florida’s hands. On off-ball foul by Cermack created a free-position attempt for the Gators, and 66 minutes and 58 seconds after the opening whistle, Nora Barry shot in the game-winner, giving Florida its first-ever overtime victory.
“Overtime is just always intense,” said Cullen, “and to be able to come out with a win in overtime is just so exciting. It’s our first time together ever doing that, and it was just so exciting to be able to do that together with all my teammates.”
The loss marked the fifth one-goal game for the Blue Jays this season, who are now 3-2 in such contests. The game lasted three seconds longer than the Gators’ double-overtime game against Syracuse in March, marking the longest lacrosse game in Florida history.
The Gators return home next Saturday to take on the nationally-ranked Commodores of Vanderbilt University in American Lacrosse Conference play. The game will be broadcast statewide on Fox Sports Florida with a noon start time.