UF midfielder Allie Pavinelli lined up for the free-position shot after a successful Florida clear attempt.
Denver had scored three goals over span of 2:21, and the Gators were looking for an answer. They held a 10-6 lead.
And they got one, just not off of the free-position attempt.
Pavinelli ran towards the goal once the whistle blew and shot it at Pioneers goalkeeper Maddy Stevenson. The ball bounced off her chest and landed in front of Attacker Mollie Stevens, who scooped up the ball and put it into the back of the net for her fourth goal of the game.
Behind Stevens’ five goals, the No. 3 Gators (8-1, 2-0 Big East) lacrosse team defeated No. 13 Denver 15-8 in a highly defensive game by both sides.
“Everything just fell into place once we started moving the ball around,” Stevens said. “We had a timeout and our coaches were kind of like we gotta get it together, start moving the ball of round, and once we were doing that, everything fell into place for us.”
Both teams committed 17 turnovers, and Stevenson recorded 11 saves, while Florida goalkeeper Haley Hicklen made 12. Denver caused nine of Florida’s turnovers, and the Gators caused 10.
It took nearly seven minutes for the first goal of the game to be scored, as neither team could gain an edge.
“They were doing a lot of top drives, and our defense did an awesome job of limiting those high opportunity shots for me,” Hicklen said. “So I give a lot of credit to my defense in front of me. They did a great job at limiting their opportunities.”
While Stevens led all scorers with five goals, she had help from her teammates. Attacker Shayna Pirreca led all players with six points on three goals and three assists, attacker Sammi Burgess added two goals and three assists, attacker Lindsey Ronbeck recorded two goals and two assists and midfielder Sydney Pirreca scored two of her own. Midfielder Caroline Benitez added a goal to the total, good for her first career-goal.
Despite a 9-3 lead at halftime, Denver (7-2, 1-1 Big East) refused to go away quietly, trailing 11-7 with 11 minutes left in the game and threatening to catch Florida after going on a 4-1 run.
But in the game’s final 11 minutes, the Gators finished strong. They scored four goals and held the Pioneers to five shots and one goal.
With Denver out of the way, the Gators can turn their attention to a looming confrontation with No. 1 Maryland on Wednesday in College Park. Last season, Maryland took a 14-4 win in Gainesville.
“(Denver) came out in the second half ready to go, and capitalized on our mistakes,” UF head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “At the same time, I thought our team was able to make some needed adjustments during the game as well. Overall I'm really pleased with the team effort today, and we're looking forward to a tough game at Maryland."
UF attacker Mollie Stevens fights for the ball during Florida's 15-8 win against Denver on March 28, 2017, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.