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Saturday, October 23, 2021
<p>Mollie Stevens (17) runs toward the net during Florida's win against San Diego State last season at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.</p>

Mollie Stevens (17) runs toward the net during Florida's win against San Diego State last season at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

The No. 2 Florida lacrosse team was close to clinching its fourth NCAA Quarterfinal appearance in program history. Instead, one of UF’s most promising campaigns came to a surprising end Sunday afternoon.

The Gators ran down the final eight minutes of regulation with the game tied at 13. Freshman Sydney Pirreca fired the possession’s second shot and the final shot of regulation. The ball ended up grazing the line, untouched, but was not ruled a goal despite celebratory cheers from the UF sideline.

Eventually, it was Penn State (13-6) that would take down the Gators (18-2) 14-13 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium to set up an Elite Eight matchup with in-state rival Pennsylvania.

Following the no-goal, the match was sent to sudden-death overtime.

Fifteen seconds into the second three-minute overtime period, PSU’s Steph Lazo received a long pass and scored on UF freshman goalie Haley Hicklen to complete the second round upset.

“You never expect to lose this early,” senior Lauren Lea said in a release. “We expected to go all the way to the national championship. …It all comes down to the final seconds, and we couldn’t come up with the win today.”

A neck-and-neck first 60 minutes featured 10 ties. One of the ties occurred off of junior midfielder Mollie Stevens’ 100th career goal, which tied the game at six. Stevens, who sat out the regular season conference schedule with a hip injury, is the third UF player this year to reach 100 career scores this season — redshirt senior Nicole Graziano and junior attacker Sammi Burgess did so on an April 24 win against Connecticut and on May 7 in the Big East Tournament title win against Temple, respectively.

Shayna Pirreca scored a career-high-tying four goals, bringing her season total to 31, good for fourth on the team.

Ronbeck notched her seventh hat trick of the season in the effort, her fifth in the past seven games.

Florida went into halftime with a rare lead in draw controls (16-12), but conceded both overtime draw control opportunities to Penn State, including the one that gave the Nittany Lions the eventual game-winning possession to begin the second overtime period.

“They brought us together and our team chemistry was second-to-none,” O’Leary said of Florida’s seniors in a release. “In that locker room after the game there were a lot of sad faces, but those seniors stepped up, they had some incredible words of wisdom for the younger players.

“I can’t say enough about them, they will be missed.”

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 Contact Kyle Brutman at kbrutman@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @KBrut13

Mollie Stevens (17) runs toward the net during Florida's win against San Diego State last season at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

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