WASHINGTON — The No. 2 Gators added the program’s fourth conference tournament championship Saturday with a 16-4 victory over Temple at Cooper Field to punch an automatic bid to the 2016 NCAA Tournament. The Orange and Blue swept both the 2016 regular-season and tournament titles en route to the best start in program history at 18-1.
Redshirt senior Nicole Graziano was the Tournament Most Outstanding player with seven points, six draw controls and three caused turnovers on the weekend — including a team-high four goals in Saturday’s title game. Junior Sammi Burgess, who notched career goal No. 100 against the Owls with her hat trick, senior Lauren Lea and a pair of freshmen in Sydney Pirreca and Haley Hicklen were also named to the All-Tournament Team Saturday.
Burgess, Graziano and freshman Lindsey Ronbeck all had a team-tying four points to lead UF against Temple, while Pirreca turned in her second hat trick in as many contests. The quartet combined for 13 of Florida’s goals on the day. Defensively, Florida caused 10 of Temple’s 11 turnovers, with two CTs each from Graziano and Lea. In all, eight players had at least one caused turnover in Saturday’s clash.
After a close 4-2 first half, Florida came out firing in the second with two goals in a span of 45 seconds, Pirreca’s second of the day and Burgess’ 100th career goal, for the 6-2 Gators lead. Hicklen locked down the cage with four saves in 30 minutes and helped give the Gators momentum to string together a 5-0 run out of the break, and a 6-0 run total, for a 9-2 lead before Temple countered. Florida proceeded to add seven more scores on Graziano, Burgess, Lindsey Ronbeck and Devon Schneider goals.
In a low-scoring first half, the Orange and Blue had four goals and four different scorers. Both the Gators and Owls capitalized on fouls for their first goals with free-position successes for a 1-1 tie, Graziano first and Megan Tiernan with the equalizer at the 23:36 mark. Florida added two on Pirreca and Lea scores for a 3-1 lead before Temple added its second at 16:52. Burgess found junior Mollie Stevens with 15.5 on the clock for the 4-2 lead and a momentum push heading to the break.
Cue Florida’s second-half heat, where the Orange and Blue outscored Temple 12-2 for the 16-4 final and the program’s second straight BIG EAST Tournament Title.
No. 2 Florida: 18-1
NUMBERS OF NOTE
“I’m just really proud of this group. They started this hard work back in August. They came in ready to compete in all three segments of our season. We credit the players with our adjustments from the first half to the second half of the game. We gave them a game plan and they executed. They do all the work and they deserve the credit for the outcome of that second half. Our goalie play was great today, not only making saves but taking care of the ball in transition. We have to enjoy this, they deserve to, but the NCAA Selection Show is tomorrow evening and we’ll get back at it tomorrow night and watch some film, but for now we’ll enjoy this moment.”
The No. 2 Gators will now await their 2016 NCAA Tournament fate, set to be announced on the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Selection Show Sunday, May 8, at 9 p.m. on NCAA.com.