May 5, 2012

Florida Foils Northwestern Again, Ends Wildcats' ALC Reign

by Max Mattern | LaxMagazine.com | Live Blog Replay

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida freshman Shannon Gilroy drove the ball from about 20 meters from the net. After four steps, three Northwestern defenders were in her face not allowing her to move any further. Gilroy put her head down and kept on moving forward with the ball. Somehow, she split the three defenders to find herself right in front of the goal.

She looked up at the goalie, cocked back her stick and let the ball fly into the top left shelf of the net.

Gilroy and her seven goals led the No. 3-ranked Gators (17-2, 5-0) to a 14-7 victory over No. 1 Northwestern (17-2, 4-1) in the American Lacrosse Conference championship game Saturday, defeating the vaunted Wildcats for the second time in the last month.

Caroline Chesterman scored first to give Florida the early lead. Northwestern's Kara Mupo responded with a goal to tie the game at 1. The Gators then went on a 4-0 run which featured two goals each by Gilroy and Kitty Cullen. After that, Northwestern could not tie it again.

"Anytime you can jump on someone and get a little confidence, it makes a big difference," Northwestern head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. "That's one thing that we have struggled with a little bit towards the later part of this season."

The Gators added another 3-0 run, and their defense kept the Wildcats from scoring any consecutive goals. Amanda Macaluso led the Wildcats with three goals off the bench, but her effort was not enough to fuel Northwestern's attack against Florida.

The Gators showcased an offense that came in averaging 16.71 goals per game, second in the country. Gilroy's seven goals were a career high.

"It was amazing, [Gilroy] dominated the draw and then to be able to score on the other end just says a lot about her athleticism," said Florida head coach Mandee O'Leary.

The Gators dominated the Wildcats by winning 18 of the game's 23 draw controls.

"That was really the story," Amonte Hiller said.

Alyssa Leonard, the Wildcats' leading draw specialist, was held to just one draw control.

Florida's goalie Mikey Meagher backstopped a stout Gator defense. She saved nine shots on 19 attempts while allowing just seven goals. Meagher won ALC tournament MVP honors for her performance against Ohio State and Northwestern.

Defender Jamie Reeg held Northwestern's Shannon Smith, the reigning Tewaaraton Award winner with 60 goals this season, scoreless with just three shots. It was first time Smith had not scored a point in 62 games.

Florida fed off the energy from the home crowd of 882 fans. The Gators are 10-1 at home.

Last year, the Gators defeated Northwestern in the regular season, but lost to the Wildcats in the ALC championship game 10-9. They made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history anyway, but lost to Duke in the second round.

Northwestern had its streak of five straight ALC championships snapped.


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