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Record-Breaking Second Season Stops Short for Florida Lacrosse, Gators Fall in Elite Eight

Written by Lee Roggenburg on . Posted in .
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The record-breaking second year of Florida lacrosse came to an end on Saturday afternoon, as the No. 4 Gators fell to the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils, 9-13, at Dizney Stadium. The Orange and Blue finish the season at 16-4, including an unprecedented 12 straight wins at home until today’s defeat. The Blue Devils move on to Stony Brook to face top-seeded and defending national champions, Maryland Terrapins, in the Final Four. There are three ACC teams in the national semifinals, as North Carolina joins Duke and Maryland in Stony Brook. 2011 ALC Tournament Champion Northwestern will face undefeated Albany for the final spot on Saturday evening at 8:00p.m. EST. “It was a great season,” Florida head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “Unfortunately, nobody likes to lose, especially this far in the game, but I’m so proud of these guys. They worked so hard…it’s devastating, but at the same time, what a tremendous season.” The Gators were led by the sophomore attacking tandem of Ashley Bruns (Ellicott City, Md.) (1 G, 3 A) and Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.) (2 G, 1 A) with seven points combined. Sophomore attacker Caroline Chesterman (South Nyack, N.Y.) and sophomore midfielder Janine Hillier (Farmingdale, N.Y.) each scored two goals while sophomore midfielders Brittany Dashiell (Bel Air, Md.) and Colby Rhea (Abington, Md.) each added one. Florida struck first with a Bruns-assisted goal by Cullen just 2:07 into the afternoon. Duke answered a little over a minute later with a goal by Christie Kaestner to even the score at 1-1. The Blue Devils’ Sarah Bullard, a U.S. national team member, scored unassisted to give Duke its first lead of the game at 2-1 with 23:30 to play in the first half. Rhea scored off another Bruns assist to tie it back at 2-2 but Duke would go on a 2-0 run sparked by Tewaaraton finalist Emma Hamm and All-ACC honorees Kaestner and Kat Thomas to go ahead, 2-4. Chesterman scored unassisted to put the Gators back in the game with 16:54 remaining before the Blue Devils went on another 2-0 run thanks to free-position goals from Hamm and Makenzie Hommel, closing out the scoring for the first half. The Blue Devils held the advantage heading in the locker room, 3-6. The three-goal deficit was the second-largest the Gators have ever faced. Florida faced a four-goal halftime deficit in their 6-9 loss to Cornell. Out of the locker room, the Gators went on a 4-1 run to knot the score at 7-7 with 24:29 remaining. Bruns opened the scoring for the Gators with a goal assisted by Cullen just 42 seconds into the second stanza. Thomas scored unassisted again before Florida had three unanswered goals by Chesterman, Cullen and Dashiell to even the score. Thomas scored again to give Duke the lead before Hillier scored back-to-back unassisted goals with 17:26 remaining in the game to give Florida its first lead since the 2:07 mark of the first half (1-0). The momentum shifted back Duke’s direction after costly turnovers by Florida gave the Blue Devils possession, despite Florida’s nine second-half draw controls. Duke went on a 5-0 tear to end the game and punch its ticket to Stony Brook. “As we were thinking how to defensively shut them down, you know, it’s a challenge to shut down so many offensive firepowers,” O’Leary said. “They scored a few goals on an open net because we pulled Mikey (Meagher) out to play defense.” The teams were practically even in every statistical category, with Florida outshooting Duke, 23-21. The Gators continued to win the game on the ground, scooping 10 ground balls to the Blue Devils’ nine. Duke continued its dominance on the draw, winning 13 draw controls to Florida’s 11. Both teams’ goalkeepers were held to five saves or less, as Duke’s Mollie Mackler had five saves and three ground balls and Florida’s Mikey Meagher (Liverpool, N.Y.) had four saves and one ground ball. Though just a second-year program, the Gators have history on their side. In its second season, Florida soccer made it to the Elite Eight. Two years later, they were national champions. The Gators end a remarkable second season with records broken and history made, but they are already thinking about Year Three. “It’s unfortunate that we lost,” Hillier said. “We’re going to carry this feeling to next season and play with a chip on our shoulder and just come out strong…and that all starts now.”
First win over a top-10 team vs.  #9 Georgetown, March 9th
Fastest team to reach IWLCA top-10 March 14th
Second-fastest opening goal in NCAA history  Kitty Cullen, :08, at #16 Penn State, April 2nd
First-ever seven goal performance Kitty Cullen, at #16 Penn State, April 2nd
First win over a top-5 team vs.  #2 Northwestern, April 14
First team to defeat Northwestern in ALC regular season play in seven years April 14
Only team other than Northwestern to ever go undefeated in ALC regular season play 5-0
Undefeated at home in the regular season March 5-April 14
Only second-year program to reach No. 2 in IWLCA poll April 25th
14 consecutive victories February 16th-May 1st
For six straight weeks, a Gator was honored by the ALC March 14th-April 18th
Kitty Cullen named Florida’s first-ever official nominee for Tewaaraton Award  
Head Coach Amanda O’Leary named ALC Coach of the Year  
Kitty Cullen named ALC Player of the Year, the first sophomore to do so since Northwestern’s Kristen Kjellman, a three-time ALC Player of the Year and two-time Tewaaraton Award recipient  
Ashley Bruns, Kitty Cullen and Sam Farrell named to ALC First Team  
Janine Hillier, Haydon Judge and Mikey Meagher named to ALC Second Team  
First ALC Tournament Final vs. Northwestern, May 7th
Emily Dohony, Sam Farrell and Janine Hillier named to ALC All-Tournament Team  
First NCAA Tournament Victory vs. Stanford, May 14th
First NCAA Elite Eight Appearance vs. Duke, May 21st