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Wednesday, December 07, 2022

In

their first American Lacrosse Conference title game, the Gators

needed just 13 minutes and 17 seconds to squander a history-making

moment.

Up

three goals late in the second half, No. 4 Florida (15-3, 5-0 ALC)

had third-ranked Northwestern (17-2, 3-2 ALC) on the ropes before

it reverted to an old habit — losing draw controls.

The

Gators conceded possession to the Wildcats on five consecutive

faceoffs, sparking a 5-0 scoring run that erased a championship

opportunity for Florida and gave Northwestern a 10-9 win.

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“The draw controls were a huge part of the game,” UF coach Amanda

O’Leary said. “As we always talk about, in order to score you need

to have the ball. We weren’t able to answer those draw controls,

and they dominated the middle.”

The

five-time national champion Wildcats have yet to lose a game in the

ALC Tournament and took home their seventh consecutive conference

championship on Sunday. 

After finishing the first half tied at five draws each, the

Wildcats finished the latter period with an 8-3 advantage. Most of

the damage was done by the ALC Freshman of the Year, Alyssa

Leonard, who had nine draw controls.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t really coming up with them,” midfielder

Ashley Bruns said. “Had we gotten some draw controls, I think it

might have been a little different, but then again, Northwestern

was very physical.”

It

was the third time in four games the top-seeded Gators failed to

win the faceoff battle and the second time they subsequently lost

the game.

O’Leary said the game looked more like a missed opportunity than a

wholesale collapse. Florida finished with more shots, ground balls

and fewer turnovers than the Wildcats and had a chance to tie the

game with 1:25 left after Bruns netted one of her two goals off of

a steal.

“There were bright spots to the day, it was just when you see an

8-5 lead diminish in a short amount of time it’s kind of like,

‘OK,’” O’Leary said. “We have to look at where we fell short.”

Offensively, the Gators were paced by sophomore Caroline

Chesterman’s hat trick. But Florida was held to single digits a day

after exploding for 16 goals against Ohio State. 

While Tewaaraton Award nominee Kitty Cullen was Florida’s hero with

six goals in an April 14 win over Northwestern, the Wildcats

limited her to zero goals and one assist on seven shots, while

their own candidate, Shannon Smith, racked up a game-high five

goals.

Now, the Gators must wait until Sunday night at 8 to know whether

they have been chosen into the field of 16 as an at-large bid for

the NCAA Tournament. The top-eight seeds host the first round.

“We

can look at this game and learn from it, but we’ve got to look

ahead because the first round is next week,” Chesterman said. “We

find out tomorrow who we play and then we have to gear up because

from now on, you lose and you’re out.”

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