For three years, Nora Barry has played the supporting role of the unsung hero.
She makes stops when they’re needed most. She scores when momentum isn’t there. She can even stand in front of an anxious defense and hold the ball until there are only 20 seconds left on the clock before scoring the winning point of the game.
Nora Barry is Florida’s go-to player.
In No. 4 Florida’s 13-9 win over No. 11 Penn State (7-4, 2-1 American Lacrosse Conference), Barry did what needed to be done.
While Barry’s numbers weren’t any better than usual, it was her presence on the field that changed the game.
Barry is known for her assists on goals and ability to pull defenders off of other players so they can get open to make a shot. She did just that against the Nittany Lions on Sunday.
“I don’t think you can actually define what she means to our program, just in terms of doing the dirty work,” coach Amanda O’Leary said. “(She’s) getting the ground balls, getting the draw controls and creating opportunities offensively for not only herself but also her teammates. … She’s a critical piece to our puzzle here.”
Barry had only one assist for the day.
It came on a goal late in the first half by freshman teammate Mollie Stevens — who scored a career-high four points — but Barry’s presence was noted on the field throughout the game.
As Penn State became more aggressive, so did Barry. She was one of four Florida players who received a yellow card and was forced to sit out while Penn State played with a man-up advantage.
“It’s really about getting the draw, getting the caused turnovers on defense,” Barry said.
“If I can do that for my team, then I’m happy to get the ball up the field and I know that our attackers can put it away.”
Barry had three draw controls and one assist against Penn State, but her defining moment for the 2014 season so far was against Loyola on March 4 when she took the final shot of the game to put Florida up 14-13.
As Florida moves into its final games of the season, Barry’s skills on the draw and on ground balls will be essential in Florida’s bid for the ALC championship at the conference’s tournament in May.
Florida faces No. 9 Johns Hopkins on Saturday.
The two schools have played each other every season since Florida’s lacrosse program started competition in 2010. Florida is 3-1 in the series against Johns Hopkins.
While the Gators haven’t checked film for Saturday’s game yet, O’Leary said Barry is key in the offenses ability to continue winning the draw control and ground balls.
O’Leary was disappointed with the slow second half that nearly cost Florida a victory, but Barry and junior Shannon Gilroy’s tough mentality and work on changing the spread of the offense saved Florida from a potential loss.
O’Leary is now looking to work with the team on adapting to other teams during the game before heading to Johns Hopkins.
“We needed to adjust and I think it took us too long to adjust to what they were doing offensively and what they were doing defensively,” O’Leary said.
“We need to be able to recognize that and make changes on the field. I don’t think we had a very good second half to be quite honest.”
Follow Eden Otero on Twitter @edenotero_l
Nora Barry drives toward the ball during Florida’s 21-5 win against Jacksonville on Feb. 12 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. Barry had one assist in Florida’s 13-9 win against Penn State on Sunday.