No. 9 Florida Downs Fairfield for Ninth Straight Win, Will Conclude Nine-Game Homestand vs. OSU
from press relase
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The No. 9 Florida lacrosse team notched their ninth-straight win over visiting Fairfield on Wednesday night at Donald R. Dizney Stadium, as the Gators defeated the Stags, 15-7. Florida played an incredible first half, leading 12-2 heading into halftime, including owning a 23-5 shooting margin against Fairfield in the first 30 minutes. A different Fairfield team emerged from the locker room in the second half, as the Stags dominated the closing 30 minutes, including holding the Gators scoreless for more than 19 total minutes in the second stanza.
"The first half was definitive for our attack," Florida head coach Amanda O'Leary said. "We executed our game plan, they were able to get the ball in the back of the net and we had a lot of different scorers, so I thought the first half was a very good effort offensively."
Florida had eight players score against Fairfield, which is the Gators' highest scoring output since their 18-9 win at in-state opponent Jacksonville on February 16th. The Gators were led by sophomore attacker and National Player of the Week Ashley Bruns (Ellicott City, Md.) with six points on the evening, splitting her goals and assists evenly.
Sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.) had four goals, while sophomore midfielder Brittany Dashiell (Bel Air, Md.) added two. Redshirt freshman midfielder Hayley Katzenberger (Damascus, Md.) earned her first start of her career and scored twice, while also taking over duties on the draw for the Gators.
"I thought Hayley was great on the draw," O'Leary said. "She's strong, she's fast and she added what we needed on the attacking end. She's been practicing really well and certainly earned that opportunity and I thought she did a fantastic job out there."
The Gators also saw scores from sophomore attacker Janine Hillier (Farmingdale, N.Y.), junior attacker Caroline Cochran (Annapolis, Md.), sophomore midfielder Colby Rhea (Abingdon, Md.) and sophomore midfielder Caroline Chesterman (South Nyack, N.Y.).
Florida started strong right out of the gate, as Cullen found the back of the net 1:35 into the first half. Less than a minute later, Bruns found an open Chesterman to the right of the crease and scored for the Gators. Cullen scored again for Florida four minutes later, giving the Gators a 3-0 lead. Fairfield's Chloe Mangan put the Stags on the board eight minutes into the contest.
Both teams were held scoreless until Bruns scored back-to-back goals to put Florida ahead, 5-1. The Stags' Katie Mackay scored from Mangan to close the lead to 5-2. The Gators then went on an eight-goal run, sparked by Cullen's third goal. Katzenberger scored her first goal of the evening less than a minute later before both teams were held scoreless for over nine minutes.
Hillier broke the stalemate with 5:50 remaining in the first half and Cochran found the back of the net nearly thirty seconds later. Dashiell scored her first goal of the contest to put the Gators in double-digit scoring for the ninth-straight game, while Rhea scored from Bruns exactly a minute later. Bruns scored a goal of her own with less than 30 seconds remaining in the first half to take a 12-2 lead into halftime.
The Gators looked to be starting the second half the way they started the first, as Katzenberger scored from Bruns to take the largest lead of the evening at 13-2. Fairfield's Addie Reilly scored from Melanie Raso five minutes in the second half to put the Stags back within 10. Cullen scored her final goal of the evening in the 10th minute of the second half before the Gators were held scoreless for over 10 minutes.
"I think we just needed to finish our shots," Bruns said. "In the first half, we were doing a really great job of finishing but in the second half, it just got away from us."
The Stags' Brittany Bare and Melanie Raso scored back-to-back to put Fairfield within nine goals before Dashiell broke the Gators' scoreless streak to widen the lead back to double-digits. The two teams once again went scoreless for nine minutes before Fairfield scored the final two goals of the evening to inch within eight, but the Gators' victory was already sealed, 15-7.
"I think the players tried things (in the second half) that weren't necessarily in our game plan," O'Leary said. "We got away from our game plan and that's why we only scored three goals. Fairfield is a well-coached team and we knew coming out in the second half that they would develop a game plan that wouldn't allow for us to score 12 goals again. Their goalie did a tremendous job and they really outplayed us in the second half."
Florida still outshot Fairfield, 33-14, as they have with every opponent they have faced this season. The Gators won the battle on the draw, 15-8, which has been crucial to the Gators' success this season.
The Gators now look to start their American Lacrosse Conference slate with their matchup against the Ohio State Buckeyes at noon on Saturday. Florida fell to Ohio State last year, 9-14. This will be the final contest of the Gators' nine-game homestand.
"We're going to prepare for Ohio State just like we do every other team," O'Leary said. "We're going to watch film tomorrow and we're going to practice hard. This group savors a victory but then realizes that we have to move on. You can savor the win for the evening but then you have to prepare for Ohio State."
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