Despite being tied at 16 with the No. 10 team in the country with just over six minutes to play, freshman midfielder Shannon Kavanagh kept her cool.
With the Gators’ abysmal first-half effort that saw the team trailing 10-2 nearly 20 minutes into the game, it seemed unlikely that Florida would ever be in position to win.
But that didn’t matter to Kavanagh.
She had been held scoreless for the first 49:04 of the game, but when UF was down by one late in the second half, she stepped up and scored the game-tying goal. All of the sudden, the Gators had a chance to take the lead for the first time all day.
With possession of the ball, Kavanagh juked Navy’s Jenna Collins. She cut to the right and fired a side-armed shot in the direction of Midshipmen goalie Ingrid Boyum. Kavanagh’s shot snuck past Boyum’s left shoulder and found the back of the net.
“Once I started shooting, I thought my stick was hot, and I knew I had to put the ball in the back of the net,” Kavanagh said.
The improbable comeback was complete. Kavanagh scored Florida’s final four goals as the No. 6 Gators escaped sure defeat against Navy, earning a 19-16 victory.
“(Kavanagh) came in clutch,” Gators coach Amanda O’Leary said. “She stepped up when we needed her.”
Florida (5-2) narrowly avoided losing back-to-back games for the first time this season, overcoming its poor start to the game.
“They could have quit,” O’Leary said. “They could have put their heads down, but they gutted it out.”
Florida had no answer for Navy in the first half. The Midshipmen (5-2) opened the game with five straight goals. With 11 minutes remaining in the half, UF trailed 10-2, the team’s largest deficit of the season.
Things went from bad to worse for the Gators, as star junior attacker Lindsey Ronbeck appeared to have injured her knee. She was helped off the field and the severity of her injury is currently unknown.
But Florida then went on a run of its own, outscoring the Midshipmen 6-1 to end the half and cutting the Navy lead to 10-7.
Florida’s defense took charge of the game after the first half despite not having its anchor in senior defender Aniya Flanagan, who missed the game with to an injury.
UF caused 10 turnovers as opposed to Navy’s two. Defender Cara Trombetta caused five of those turnovers, a new career high for her.
“We kept chipping away on offense,” she said. “As a defensive unit, we had to back them up and make statements.”
Once Kavanagh started scoring, Navy couldn’t stop the Gators’ offense. Florida finished the game on yet another 6-1 run, sealing the victory.
The team will now prepare for Big East play on Sunday in Nashville when it takes on the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Trombetta said that while the team is trying not to look past its difficult conference opponents, it still has its sights set beyond the regular season.
“We’re thinking about right now,” she said. “But at the same time, we have playoffs in the back of our head.”
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Midfielder Shannon Kavanagh tied her career high of four goals Tuesday against Navy. “She came in clutch,” Gators coach Amanda O’Leary said.