Florida senior Gabi Wiegand keeps last year’s Final Four game against Syracuse in the back of her mind.
Wiegand lined up at the 8-meter line after a hard foul. As soon as the whistle blew, she sprinted forward and launched the ball into the back of the net for what seemed to be the go-ahead goal.
With seconds to spare in overtime, Wiegand and her teammates celebrated after nearly pulling off the impossible, guaranteeing a spot in the national championship game.
But a whistle was blown.
Wiegand’s stick was checked and deemed illegal. The net at the end of her stick was too deep. The goal was taken away.
The Orange went on to defeat the Gators 14-13 in double overtime.
"We definitely thought we had it," Wiegand said referring to the Final Four match. "And it being my stick that was illegal, that’s something I keep in the back of my head and that pushes me through practice and through games."
Coach Amanda O’Leary added: "It is what it is. It happened, and we can’t take it back, but it certainly is a learning opportunity and a learning situation for us."
No. 2 Florida (6-0) will play No. 5 Syracuse (2-1) on Saturday at Sun Life Stadium in Miami.
The Orange walked away with two wins in two matches against the Gators last year. Each victory came by one goal in extra time.
The abrupt end to Florida’s 2012 season has spawned the Gators’ 2013 slogan: unfinished business. O’Leary said the mantra applies in part to Syracuse because the team has something to prove.
Wiegand, though, sees it in a different light.
"I don’t think it’s specifically about Syracuse because it’s more about us and how we didn’t finish what we wanted to last year, and we wanted a national championship," Wiegand said. "Our unfinished business is winning this year… Finishing our mission."
Florida’s undefeated 6-0 start to the 2013 campaign has proven promising. But the Gators want to keep pushing. With unfinished business on her mind, Wiegand expects UF to earn a different result against Syracuse.
"This time, I’ll go out with the same game plan and same mentality," Wiegand said. "And, this time, my stick will be legal."