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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Johns Hopkins had the Gators right where it wanted them.

But only for less than twenty seconds.

The Blue Jays had won the critical first draw of sudden death overtime, but Florida freshman defender Sally Jentis checked junior attacker Monica Fischer, forcing her to turn the ball over 18 seconds into the possession.

“When they got [the draw] I was like, ‘Ah, there are two girls open,’” Jentis said. “I went for it and got lucky.”

Freshman midfielder Nora Barry scored on a free-position shot on the ensuing possession to give No. 5 Florida (13-2, 3-0 American Lacrosse Conference) a 13-12 win over No. 19 Johns Hopkins (7-4, 0-2 ALC).

“That was huge,” junior attacker Kitty Cullen said. “I was so proud of Sally…she went all out. If she hadn’t done that we might not have won the game.” 

Jentis did not enter the game until the 18:27 mark of the second half when Blue Jays’ senior attacker Colleen McCaffrey received a yellow card after hitting Florida junior defender Emily Dohony in the head with her stick. Dohony had to leave the game as she was bleeding from her head, but O’Leary said after the game she would be fine.

“She had blood gushing from her head,” O’Leary said. “They glued her skin back.” 

It was the first overtime win in the three-year history of the UF lacrosse program.

The Gators almost didn’t make it to overtime though.

With 36 seconds remaining and the Blue Jays leading 11-10, Johns Hopkins’ defender Sophia Sherry fouled Cullen inside the 8-meter arc. Cullen appeared to tie it on the ensuing free position shot, but an official inspected her stick following the goal and ruled that the pocket was illegal.

After the Blue Jays were given possession, they simply needed to run out the clock but were unable to do so as junior defender Jamie Reeg intercepted a clearance attempt from goalkeeper KC Emerson. Following a Cullen shot that went wide, junior attacker Gabi Wiegand was fouled taking the ball to the goal and scored on the free-position shot to tie the game with seven seconds remaining.

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“It was kind of upsetting,” Cullen said of having her game-tying goal called back. “Thank goodness we have Gabi who is such a good shooter and she was able to get (a free-position shot) and it worked out.”

Cullen scored a game-high four goals on seven shots in her first game back after missing two with a concussion. Her fourth goal tied the game in the first overtime after Johns Hopkins had taken a 12-11 lead 29 seconds earlier.

“Our attack played really well,” Jentis said. “Working the ball around hoping to find the shot we wanted, not the shots we have.”

In addition to their late-game deficit, the Gators trailed 3-1 in the game’s early minutes. O’Leary was pleased with her team’s ability to come back multiple times.

“It was 34 seconds left and they had the ball,” O’Leary said. “It’s almost unheard of to be able to pull out a win. They don’t quit. Win or lose, they’re going to give you everything they have, and as a coach that is really all you can ask of your team.”

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