Florida's Kitty Cullen advances against UNC's Kara Cannizzaro

Late Comeback Falls Short as Florida Lacrosse Drops Opener, 11-9, at No. 3 UNC

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Florida's Kitty Cullen advances against UNC's Kara Cannizzaro
Florida's Kitty Cullen advances against UNC's Kara Cannizzaro

Chapel Hill, N.C. — Junior All-Americans Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.) and Ashley Bruns (Ellicott City, Md.) each scored three goals apiece, but a flurry of goals by the No. 3 North Carolina Tar Heels at the end of the first half proved too much for the No. 4 Florida lacrosse team to overcome, as UF dropped its first contest of the year, 11-9.

In addition to her three goals, Cullen added one of the Gators’ two assists, and Britney Dasheill (Bel Air, Md.) tallied a goal and an assist. Gabi Wiegand (Bay Shore, N.Y.) and Caroline Chesterman (South Nyack, N.Y.) each contributed an additional goal apiece.

Dasheill led the Gators’ ground game, picking up three draw controls and two ground balls, and Wiegand, Nicole Graziano (Mendham, N.J.) and Sally Jentis (Ridgewood, N.J.) each also had two ground balls. Kayla Stolins (Glen Arm, Md.) had a team-high three ground balls, and Nora Barry (Marcellus, N.Y.) and Emily Dohony (Parkton, Md.) both had two draw controls. Dashiell and Dohony both forced two turnovers in the game.

UNC’s Kara Cannizzaro led both teams with four goals in the game, and Abbey Friend added another three for the Carolina Blue.

Although the Gators outshot the Tar Heels, 25-20, North Carolina goalkeeper Lauren Maksym made an impressive 10 saves in the game to counter the Gators’ attack. Florida keepers Mikey Meagher (Liverpool, N.Y.) and Cara Canington (Bel Air, Md.) each played a half, as Meagher allowed seven goals with two saves, and Canington gave up the final four scores and made one save.

The Gators got off to a strong start in the game, as freshman Nora Barry (Marcellus, N.Y.) won the opening draw and quickly got the ball to All-American Kitty Cullen who put the Gators on the board with a free-position goal just 35 seconds after the opening whistle. Dashiell won the next draw, and drove the ball down to the Tar Heels’ end. A foul inside the arc gave Dashiell a free-position attempt, which she converted at 27:58 to give the Gators a speedy 2-0 lead.

The Tar Heels battled back at 25:26, as sophomore Abbey Friend notched a free-position goal of her own to get North Carolina on the board. Kara Cannizzaro tied the score at two just over five minutes later, and Friend netted another goal, assisted by Becky Lynch, to take UNC’s first lead at 18:15.

At 18:03, UNC’s Lynch got the first yellow card of the season, and at 17:07, Caroline Chesterman scored the Gators’ first-ever official man-up goal, assisted by Dashiell, to tie the score at three.

Both teams went on a scoring drought over the next eight minutes, until Brittney Coppa broke the silence at 8:59 with an unassisted goal to regain the Tar Heels’ lead, 4-3. North Carolina went on a hot streak in the final three minutes of the half, scoring three unanswered goals, including a buzzer-beater by Kara Cannizzaro, to go to the locker room riding a solid 7-3 lead.

Emily Garrity opened the second half with a Tar Heel goal at 24:11, assisted by Laura Zimmerman, to hand UNC its largest lead of the game, up 8-3.

Ashley Bruns fought back for the Gators, scoring back-to-back goals to pull within three, but Taylor George and Abbey Friend pushed UNC right back up, 10-5.

Cullen then reached into her bag of tricks to start another UF comeback, scoring on a free-position shot at 12:07 and an unassisted tally at 10:37. Gabi Wiegand kept the Gators’ momentum moving with her first goal wearing the Orange and Blue at 9:14, to pull the Gators within two.

However, Cannizzaro drove in her fourth goal of the game at 6:28 to seal the deal for UNC, and though Bruns chipped in her third of the day at 2:49, UF was unable to complete the comeback, falling by a final score of 11-9.

The University of Florida outplayed North Carolina in several statistical categories, leading in shots (25-20), ground balls (22-13) and turnovers (14-17), but the Tar Heels strength in saves (10-3) and draw controls (13-8) proved the difference-maker.

The Gators return to action on Wednesday, Feb. 15, when they host in-state foe Jacksonville in the 2012 home opener. Opening draw is set for 6:30 p.m.