Denver goalie Maddy Stevenson stepped out of the crease on a Pioneers clear attempt, looking to help ease the pressure Florida was exerting on the clear.
What she wasn’t expecting, however, was pressure from attacker Mollie Stevens. After a bad pass, Stevenson tried to get behind the net, but Stevens knocked the ball out of the goalie’s stick.
The ball bounced off the post of the goal before rolling towards a waiting Stevens, who flicked the ball from the ground over the head of a chasing Stevenson and into the back of the net.
At that point, the Gators held a 10-3, and Stevens scored her fourth goal of the game, well on her way to a seven point performance.
Behind an offense where four players scored at least three goals, the No. 2 Gators (17-2) defeated No. 16 Denver 18-12 on Saturday to win the Big East Championship.
“Today was a battle,” coach Amanda O’Leary said. “I couldn't be more proud of how this team came out from the opening draw and never let up.”
The Gators jumped out to a big lead in the first half, leading 11-4. But Denver (14-4) wouldn’t go away quietly in the second half.
After falling behind 14-5, the Pioneers scored four consecutive goals to go down by five. The Gators answered back with four of their own, stopping any chance of the Pioneers from getting back into the game.
Stevens led the Gators with seven points on five goals and two assists, and Lindsey Ronbeck followed up with six points on a hat trick in goals and assists. Sydney Pirreca and Sammi Burgess had hat tricks, and Carli Marsh and Shayna Pirreca netted two goals.
Stevens also stacked the stat box in other categories, as well. She finished the day with two ground balls, two caused turnovers and six draw controls.
On defense, defender Cara Trombetta led the team with a career-high three caused turnovers. The Gators caused nine of Denver’s 17 turnovers and held the Pioneers to 24 shots on goal.
And in goal, Haley Hicklen had a .500 save percentage with 12 saves, her fifth game this season with at least 10 saves and a .500 save percentage.
“All the credit to Denver for being prepared and giving us a great game,” O’Leary said.
This is the Gators’ third consecutive year winning the Big East Tournament, which guarantees them an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Florida will find out where it has been seeded on Sunday, May 7 during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show.
“Now we look forward to NCAA play,” O’Leary said.
Contact Jake Dreilinger at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @DreilingerJake.
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.