With less than 7 minutes remaining, No. 2 Florida led No. 5 Syracuse 14-10 on Saturday evening, but it was a scenario that was all too familiar for the Gators.
The last time the two faced off was in the Final Four when Florida led by five goals with 7 minutes left before allowing the Orange to mount a five-goal comeback that led to them winning the game 14-13 in double overtime.
As the minutes waned during Saturday’s contest, the Orange’s Kayla Treanor walked into an opportunity to spark a momentum shift in the game. Florida defender Kayla Stolins lost her footing as Treanor spun, leaving her wide open.
Treanor sprinted to the doorstep of the Gators’ goal, where Mikey Meagher stood. As Treanor launched the ball fewer than 7 feet away, Meagher’s stick deflected the shot away.
“I saw her coming down at me, and I literally looked down at her stick,” Meagher said. “I tried not to go for the fake that they were doing all night, and then I just saw it all the way in.”
Meagher started to jump and yell in excitement. She altered what could have been a momentum turn in the game to help seal a victory that was well overdue for the Gators (7-0).
On Saturday, the Gators (7-0) finished off the Orange (2-2) 14-10 Sun Life Stadium in Miami at the Orange Bowl Classic. Florida lost twice to Syracuse in double overtime last season.
“We made sure to study their tape and prepare to the best of our ability,” coach Amanda O’Leary said. “… I don’t think anything caught us off guard.”
Meagher was the leader for Florida, racking up eight saves while playing all 60 minutes. More than half of her saves came from shots that were les than 4 meters away.
“The one thing about Mikey is that she thrives in these big games,” O’Leary said.
On the offensive end, senior Kitty Cullen was equally important.
Cullen was nearly perfect on the day, scoring on four of her five shots. All four goals came when she received the ball around the 8-meter line on the left side of the goal and ran forward while crossing the ball over her body to the goal.
“Our coaches did a great job scouting Syracuse, and they told us where to shoot on different spots on the field,” Cullen said. “I happened to be in that spot every time, and I was lucky enough they went in.”
Cullen was one of seven players that scored in the game.
“We are able to use every single player on our offense,” Cullen said, “And that’s what separates us from [other teams] this year.”
Overall, O’Leary said she could have not asked for more out of her team on the day.
“One of the best offensive efforts that I’ve seen us have in a long time,” O’Leary said.
Mikey Meagher (5) defends a goal against Northwestern on May 5, 2012. Coach Amanda O'Leary pulled Meagher in the second half of Florida's loss to Penn State to give the Gators an extra defender.