It was an ice-cold and windy kind of day in Baltimore at Loyola University Maryland on Tuesday.
No. 5 Florida (6-1) faced off against the Loyola Greyhounds (2-3) in a 14-13 win in weather that a Floridian would cringe to think about.
But even in weather that leaves piles of snow on the sidelines of a half frozen field, Florida came out and played like losing was not an option.
Once again, the Gators defense held the team upright. Five games after the season-opener and the young defense has more than proved itself. It’s first real test of toughness was against Saturday’s opponent Stony Brook University (3-2) showed that the Gators have been waiting to show off powerhouse players like redshirt senior goalkeeper Cara Canington, freshman Caroline Fitzgerald and senior Krista Grabher.
With Fitzgerald guarding the goal line in front of Canington and Grabher running the crease, Florida’s inside defense looked the strongest it’s been yet.
Fitzgerald picked up one ground ball, caused one turnover and handed three fouls over to the Greyhounds.
Grabher caused one turnover, picked up one ground ball and fouled once. Canington put five saves on the board and kept Loyola (record) on free position shots. However, the senior goalkeeper was taken out after 45 minutes of play after she fouled Loyola’s Annie Thomas and was held on the 8-meter line while Thomas took a free-position shot.
But even with a strong defense and an offense trying to gain momentum it wasn’t a pretty win. Florida tied up the game 5-5 at the end of the first half and came out after halftime with a 3-0 run.
Unfortunately for the Gators, the Greyhounds countered with a 6-0 run putting the Gators down 13-9.
“I have to compliment Loyola on a tremendous game,” said Coach Amanda O’Leary. “I thought our team remained extremely composed, despite being down four points. They stuck it out as a team and worked really hard for the comeback.”
It was the big plays made by the defense in saves and turnovers and the offenses ability to stay spread so they could put up a fight in the final 12 minutes of play to bring them just one point above Loyola for the win.
In the final 3:30 of the game Nora Barry took control of the draw and stood outside of the crease letting defenders stare her down for two straight minutes before dodging through two defenders in front of her and putting the final nail in the coffin for the Greyhounds.
In addition to Barry’s final goal, she marked her 100th career point and put up a season-high of five goals, won two caused turnovers and took two groundballs.
“Nora Barry was unbelievable today, not just the game-winner, but everything else she did for us,” O’Leary said.
Follow Eden Otero on Twitter @edenotero_l