Temple was slowly creeping back into the game after falling behind 3-0 early on. After ten scoreless minutes, the Owls found the net on back-to-back goals nearly a minute apart and were now within striking distance of catching the Gators.
Temple’s next offensive possession, however, is where Florida took the game, and the momentum, back.
Defender Cara Trombetta caused a Brenda McDermott turnover and passed the ball to the offense for the clear. A couple shots later, the ball ended up in the stick of attacker Mollie Stevens. The Centreville, Maryland, native ran towards the front of the goal and shot the ball past Owls goalie Meryn Lowell for her first score of the game.
Behind Stevens’ five goals that boosted an offense where nine players scored at least once, the No. 2 Gators (16-2) dominated Temple 21-9 on Thursday to advance to the Big East Championship.
“We are very proud of our team,” coach Amanda O’Leary said in a report. “They continued to play hard throughout the game, and matched Temple's enthusiasm coming out of the second half.”
UF was leading 6-4 when the Gators went on a scoring run, notching seven goals in six minutes to go up 13-4. Florida opened up the second half with a 6-0 run to put the game even further out-of-reach.
Stevens led the team with five goals, including a first-half hat trick, and attacker Lindsey Ronbeck followed up with four goals. Sydney Pirreca, Shayna Pirreca, Brianna Harris, Allie Pavinelli and Carli Marsh scored twice.
Scoring wasn’t the only way the Gators were productive on offense. Attacker Sammi Burgess led the Gators in a different category: assists.
Out of the Gators’ eight assists, Burgess had four of them, finding Shayna Pirreca, Stevens and Pavinelli for the score.
Florida also did a good job staying in control of the match, and that started with the defense putting pressure on Temple’s offense.
Defensively, the Gators held Temple (13-5) to 17 shots, 12 of which were on goal, and caused 10 of the Owls’ 19 turnovers.
Defender Caroline Fitzgerald led the way with three ground balls and three caused turnovers, and defender Cara Trombetta scooped up two ground balls and caused two turnovers.
With the win, the Gators advanced to the Big East Championship game where they will face No. 3-seed Denver. The Pioneers defeated Georgetown in a close 9-8 game on Thursday where the game-winning goal was scored with 35 seconds left.
This is Florida’s third-consecutive Big East Tournament finals appearance. The other two times the Gators were in the finals, they took home the title.
“It's a great feeling to be headed to the championship game,” O’Leary said.
“Competing for the chance to win a championship is what being a Gator is all about."
Contact Jake Dreilinger at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @DreilingerJake.
UF attacker Mollie Stevens fights off a North Carolina player during Florida's 13-10 loss to the Tar Heels on Feb. 11, 2017, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.