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Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Rarely does a 10-goal lead and a running clock after halftime translate into a lukewarm victory.

But after getting outscored 5-3 in the second half, the No. 9 Gators (9-1) were left visibly upset  with their 15-7 win over Fairfield (5-4).

“We got away from our game plan,” UF coach Amanda O’Leary said. “Hence why we only scored three goals in the second half, which was not very good.”

Florida’s offense in the first half, however, seemed to be executed to near perfection. Led by the team’s two leading goal scorers, sophomores Kitty Cullen and Ashley Bruns, the Gators jumped out to a 12-2 advantage.

The duo had a pair of hat tricks locked up with just 31 seconds left in the opening half after Bruns beat Fairfield goalie Katie Keenan on the left post with one of her signature wrap-around goals.

Keenan was bombarded early and often by UF's attackers and midfielders, who reeled off 23 shots by halftime, while the Stags were only able to manage five shots on Gators sophomore Mikey Meagher.

The Stags’ starter in goal made only two saves in the first but tended a stingier net later in the game. The Gators’ hot shooting fell from 52 percent in the first to 30 percent in the second, as the offense settled for just 10 shots.

“They were being really physical, but we’re also physical in practices, and we should be able to handle it,” Bruns said. “We just weren’t finishing our shots.”

Fairfield’s defense even influenced Florida’s once-potent shooters during free-position attempts. Instead of letting Bruns, Cullen and Brittany Dashiell (two goals) get off clean shots, the defense clamped down and committed a foul nearly every time one of them entered the 8-meter arc with the ball.

The strategy paid off for the Stags, as they out-fouled the Gators 17 to eight and allowed them to convert just 3 of 7 free position shots.

“I think we slacked off a little bit in the second half and definitely need to be better next time,” Bruns said.

With the win, Florida moves into American Lacrosse Conference play for the first time this season at home against Ohio State (5-3) Saturday at noon. The Buckeyes beat the Gators 14-9 last season in Columbus, Ohio.

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