Gainesville, Fla. – No. 5 Florida scored a school-record 17 goals in the first half and held No. 10 Dartmouth scoreless through the final 37 minutes of play to hand the Big Green its first loss of the season, 20-4. With the win, the Gators improve to 9-2, while Dartmouth drops to 5-1 (1-0 Ivy).
“I’m really thrilled with the win,” said Head Coach Amanda O’Leary. “Dartmouth is the 10th-ranked team in the country. Our team came out of the locker room really pumped and ready to go with some quick goals on the board early, and I thought we just rode that momentum throughout the game. Just a really solid 60 minutes of play from our team.”
Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.) tied her career highs with eight points and three ground balls, leading the team with five goals and three assists. Brittany Dashiell (Bel Air, Md.) followed with three goals and two assists, Ashley Bruns (Ellicott City, Md.) and Gabi Wiegand (Bay Shore, N.Y.) each had four goals, and Caroline Chesterman (South Nyack, N.Y.) notched two goals and two assists. Shannon Gilroy (Huntington, N.Y.) and Nora Barry (Marcellus, N.Y.) scored the remaining points, each contributing a goal and an assist.
Sam Farrell (Milliersville, Md.) shined on defense, grabbing five ground balls and causing two turnovers, while holding Big Green leading-scorer Sarah Plumb to just one shot on goal and no points. Barry had a strong performance in the midfield, earning four groundballs and five draw controls.
“I was really pleased with how our team responded,” O’Leary commented. “We have a lot of respect for Dartmouth. They are a tremendous team. I attribute this victory to how hard our team prepared for it. They kept the focus and intensity throughout the entire 60 minutes. I’m just really pleased with how they put this game together for a full 60 minutes. It is what we have been asking them to do and they responded well tonight.”
Mikey Meagher (Liverpool, N.Y.) got the starting nod for the Gators, playing the first 21:53 and allowing three goals before being replaced by Cara Canington (Bel Air, Md.) who allowed one more in the final 8:07. Meagher returned at the top of the second half, shutting out the Big Green through the entire second stanza while making eight saves.
Hana Bowers led the Big Green offense, scoring two goals in the first half. Lindsey Allard and Erin Massimi scored the remaining two, and Liz Calby and Casey Griffin each put up an assist. Starting keeper Kristen Giovanniello, who entered tonight’s game leading the nation with a .548 save percentage, allowed 17 goals in 55:12 while stopping 11 shots. Freshman Jessica Frieder made her collegiate debut late in the first half, earning two saves and allowing three goals in the final 4:48 of the first, before Giovanniello returned at the top of the second.
“I think all of the attackers worked really hard to try to get the ball back as much as possible, and keep it in our offensive (end),” Cullen said. “The first couple of games we’ve had this season it was down on defense a lot, and the defenders were working so hard. We were kind of throwing the ball away when we got it. So I think today we worked really hard, and the defenders got a break.”
The Gators did not waste any time on offense, scoring five unanswered goals in the first 10 minutes. UF forced several turnovers in the midfield, not allowing Dartmouth to get the ball to its offensive end through the first eight minutes of the game, until Hana Bowers broke the silence at 19:47 on a free-position goal.
Cullen earned her first assist of the night just 32 seconds later, knocking the ball out of the goalkeeper’s stick and forcing it out of bounds. She then sent the in-bounding pass to Bruns around the other side of the net, who beat the goalie to the front of the cage and dunked in an empty-netter. With tonight’s performance, Cullen extends her school-record scoring streaks to 35 straight games with a point and nine with an assist.
Cullen added an unassisted goal at 17:40 to give the Gators a 7-1 lead, before Erin Massimi capitalized on a Florida yellow card and netted a man-up goal at 13:30.
The Gators scored the next four straight to take an 11-2 advantage. Working hard to keep the clock from running, Dartmouth scored two of the next three goals, but the Gators closed out the half with five unanswered goals, including an unassisted goal by Cullen with two seconds left on the clock, to head into the intermission riding a 17-4 lead.
Florida tacked on three more goals during the second half, while holding the Big Green scoreless for the remainder of the game. Dartmouth took 11 shots in the second half, but Meagher made eight big saves to leave a final score of 20-4.
“I think it just shows that we’re really unstoppable when everyone is playing good,” said Cullen. “Anyone can score. They can try to shut me off, or try to shut Ashley off, but we have six other players out there that can score. It’s just awesome.”
Tonight’s game marks the program-record fifth time this season the Gators have scored at least 20 points in a game and the most points ever scored against a ranked opponent. Florida’s 17 points in the first half eclipses the Gators’ previous record of 15 in a half, which they had achieved twice before, including earlier this month against Temple. Additionally, the Gators held an opponent scoreless through an entire half for the third time in team history.
The Gators open American Lacrosse Conference play on the road this weekend, traveling to Columbus, Ohio, to take on No. 15 Ohio State. The Gators and the Buckeyes will play at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Opening draw is set for 1 p.m.