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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Amanda O’Leary wanted some unfamiliar faces to make big contributions Wednesday night.

The Gators provided that and much more.

No. 4 Florida (11-2) routed Fresno State (2-5) 29-0 in the most lopsided game in the program’s three-year history.

It was first time the Gators had ever shut out an opponent, and the 29 goals broke a UF single-game record of 23 set earlier this season against Siena.

“It was really about our people who haven’t really been needed to step up, really had to step up,” O’Leary said. “And I thought they did that.”

Junior attacker Kitty Cullen, Florida’s leading scorer heading into the game, did not play due to a concussion suffered in a 10-8 win at Ohio State on Saturday.

The Gators were also without two other key contributors as junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell, their fourth-leading scorer, and freshmen Shannon Gilroy, the team’s leader in draw controls, both missed the game with injuries that O’Leary chose not to disclose.

“I’m not allowed to talk about them, I don’t think,” O’Leary said of the injuries. “Sorry.”

Those who did play were more than effective, scoring 17 goals on 23 first-half shots.

“We definitely filled their shoes pretty well,” freshman midfielder Nicole Graziano said.

Graziano, who had just 10 goals and five assists prior to the win, shouldered her fair share of the scoring load with six goals on seven shots.

With Gilroy out, Graziano also contributed on the draw with a game-high four draw controls.

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“I kind of knew how to do it a little, I guess,” Graziano said. “I didn’t really know how to line up. … I definitely just tried to muscle it out to someone on my team so they could get the ball and, if it went up in the air, I tried to just box out the girl. Just mimic what Gilroy or Brittany would do.”

The injuries allowed players with limited playing time this season to see significant minutes against the Bulldogs. Non-starters Colby Rhea, Erin Graziano, Krista Grabher and Taylor McCord combined for eight goals and three assists.

Florida was dominant from the outset, going up 10 goals less than 10 minutes into the game while not allowing Fresno State to get a shot off until more than 21 minutes into the first half.

Junior defender Sam Farrell gave the offensive players much of the credit for the shutout.

“When they were trying to clear the ball out, we got a lot of turnovers that way,” Farrell said. “That was the attack working hard after they lost the ball.”

Farrell said she and the rest of the defenders kept up their intensity for all 60 minutes, which helped limit the Bulldogs to just five shots on the night.

Freshman defender Mick Offit also saw her first action since March 17 against William & Mary, and O’Leary said all of the minutes non-starters received will be beneficial with the remainder of the ALC schedule ahead.

“The fact that we could put some new faces out there and they responded very well gives me a good feeling that we can utilize them at any moment in time.”

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