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Sunday, February 05, 2023
<p>After graduating 12 seniors in 2013, Florida looked to 2014 as a year of rebuilding with 11 new players on the field. However, Florida ended conference play undefeated despite the lack of experience. The Gators won their fourth straight American Lacrosse Conference regular-season title, second conference tournament title and made a fourth straight NCAA Quarterfinals appearance.</p>
<p>Next season, Florida will still be fighting to be the No. 1 seed, but coach Amanda O’Leary and company will have to do so in their new conference: The Big East.</p>

After graduating 12 seniors in 2013, Florida looked to 2014 as a year of rebuilding with 11 new players on the field. However, Florida ended conference play undefeated despite the lack of experience. The Gators won their fourth straight American Lacrosse Conference regular-season title, second conference tournament title and made a fourth straight NCAA Quarterfinals appearance.

Next season, Florida will still be fighting to be the No. 1 seed, but coach Amanda O’Leary and company will have to do so in their new conference: The Big East.

It was a bitter end to an incredible season.

As the clocked ticked down in the last 15 seconds junior Nora Barry tossed the ball downfield to freshman Sammi Burgess and she took a shot that was just an inch to high.

It was the kind of shot that will sit with her until next season. It was the kind of ending that will sit with the team until they find a way to redeem themselves. The kind of end that feeds into success.

Tear-streaked and tired, junior Shannon Gilroy and seniors Krista Grabher and Cara Cannington walked to the table just outside of Donald R. Dizney Stadium to host the hardest press conference of the season.

It was coach Amanda O’Leary that spoke first and it wasn’t about how great No. 5 Northwestern was, but rather how Cannington and Grabher led a young team through a season that not even the lacrosse Gods would have expected.

“They were instrumental in bringing this young program to a place that I don’t think anybody really thought we could go, just through their leadership and their caring,” O’Leary said. “They instilled a love among this team and team chemistry. They built a legacy and the next group, Shannon and Nora those seniors coming in next year, they have learned from them and I think they will continue that.”

Even in a nail-biting 12-11 overtime loss to Northwestern (14-6), Florida didn’t concede defeat until the very final second on the clock.

Even double-teamed and face guarded by Northwestern’s Kerri Harrington – the best face guard in the country – Gilroy came out with a game plan that included helping put points on the board and bring Florida to the semifinals.

“I wouldn’t be capable without the help of my teammates,” Gilroy said. “They set the pick and they were able to find me. I have to give them the credit because they were able to find me.”

While Gilroy scored only three points for the day, the points served as reminder to Northwestern that Florida would find a way.

Unfortunately, Florida (18-3) just couldn’t come up with the win, no matter how hard the team worked.

In the end it amounted to who got the final draw control. And with Northwestern’s Alyssa Leonard, it was nearly impossible to win the draw control battle.

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“We knew that the draw would be critical,” O’Leary said “Alyssa (Leonard) is the best in the country at that position and she showed it today.”

While Florida’s season ended with the final buzz of the overtime clock and Northwestern celebrating on Florida’s home turf, the team will have something to look back on use to feed their hunger for a national championship.

Follow Eden Otero on Twitter @edenotero_l

Shannon Gilroy looks to shoot the ball during Florida’s 18-7 win against High Point on Feb. 15 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. Gilroy was named the Midfielder of the Year by womenslax.com after setting UF records in goals (86) and points (106).

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