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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Three days after Florida snagged a share of its first American Lacrosse Conference title with a dramatic upset of No. 2 Northwestern, Vanderbilt didn’t let the Gators take the crown outright without a fight.

After five ties and six lead changes against the Commodores on Sunday, the No. 6 Gators (14-1, 5-0 ALC) needed a Brittany Dashiell free-position goal with just 30 seconds left to edge Vanderbilt (7-7, 1-4 ALC) 8-7 in Nashville, Tenn., and secure their first outright regular-season ALC championship.

“We came out flat because we were on such a high from Northwestern,” Dashiell said. “We weren’t really focused too much on the Vanderbilt game. I know that’s how it was for me personally … but I had confidence the whole time that we would come out with the win.”

The Gators were limited to a season-low 23 shots, including four without a goal at the free-position arc before Dashiell’s final attempt. Florida’s cause was also hurt by an injury Kitty Cullen suffered against Northwestern. The nation’s leading scorer was limited to about 30 minutes of action and one assist.

“It took a lot of work, not only by Kitty, but by [athletic trainer] Anna [Hale] as well,” UF coach Amanda O’Leary said. “We traveled with training equipment that I had never seen before. They had her in the boot, they had her in the game ready, they had her doing another machine. I mean, Anna worked a lot to make sure that Kitty was ready to go.”

O’Leary also said sophomore midfielder Haydon Judge was limited by an injury and was “50-50” before playing against Vanderbilt.

Sophomore Ashley Bruns stepped up in the first half to fill the Gators’ scoring needs, recording a hat trick and two assists. But she was held scoreless the entire second half as Florida managed just two goals.

While UF wasn’t doing its defense any favors with a season-low seven goals, the back line held Vanderbilt scoreless for the last 27:16.

Dashiell’s late-game heroics were made possible when sophomore Mikey Meagher made one of her seven saves on a Commodores’ free-position attempt placed perfectly at the center hash of the 8-meter arc.

“It’s definitely really exciting that we were able to go 5-0 in conference play,” Meagher said. “We’ve had three conference games in one week, so I think we were a little tired, but it’s good to know that we can work through it and come out with the win.”

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