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Friday, April 12, 2024

Following a first-half defensive battle, the Gators were looking to take control.

They did so by playing keep away for much of the second half.

For the second straight year, No. 5 Florida (10-2, 1-0 American Lacrosse Conference) opened league play with a 10-8 win at No. 15 Ohio State (7-1, 0-1 ALC) in its lowest scoring matchup of this season.

“It was a battle,” coach Amanda O’Leary said. “It was a physical game.”

Neither team was able to generate a consistent attack in the first half as the Gators did not score until nearly nine minutes in when junior attacker Caroline Chesterman scored the first of three straight Florida goals. But the Buckeyes responded with two straight goals to tie it at three.

After freshman midfielder Nora Barry scored the first of her four goals on five shots with an assist from junior attacker Kitty Cullen at 10:37 to put the Gators up 4-3, both squads clamped down defensively. Neither team scored the rest of the half, and the seven first-half goals were the lowest combined first half score for any UF game this season.

Ohio State played a high-pressure defense most of the game, and O’Leary said that the Buckeyes focused on shutting down the attackers and the Gators’ midfielders took advantage of the opportunities it created.

“They were quick to double [the attackers],” O’Leary said. “And I thought Nora and [junior midfielder Shannon Gilroy] both stepped up to the challenge of really having to put the ball in the back of the net.”

Barry scored two of her goals on free-position shots inside the 12-meter fan, and her first one came when Cullen passed it to her on a free-position shot. She said that the Buckeyes physical defense was effective most of the game, but the Gators were able to take advantage their opportunities the defense gave them.

“We slowly got used to [the physicality of the Buckeye defense] as the game went on,” Barry said. “We did convert a lot from their mistakes and their fouls.”

The Gators were able to extend their lead to start the second half, as Barry made it a 7-4 game, scoring all three Florida goals in the first 12 minutes. UF limited OSU’s opportunities for the majority of the last 30 minutes, controlling seven of the half’s first nine draws.

“It just came down to our determination and heart,” Gilroy said. “To want the ball and win the ball, so that helped a lot in the second half.”

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Gilroy got the fifth of her game-high five draw controls and scored her second goal less than a minute after the Buckeyes had scored a man-up goal to cut the Gators’ lead to 7-5. Cullen controlled the draw following Gilroy’s goal at 14:51, and Florida held onto the ball for over four minutes before junior attacker Gabi Wiegand turned it over.

“It wasn’t the prettiest game,” O’Leary said. “But anytime you can leave Ohio State with a victory I think that’s a testament to the team, and I’m pretty pleased with that.”

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