COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND — Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Sarah Reznick entered the season as the team’s starter following the graduation of Haley Hicklen.
Hicklen, Florida’s all-time leader in saves (566), left her successor with Shaquille O’Neal-like shoes to fill. But there’s one thing she was unable to do: Beat Maryland.
With eight minutes remaining in the game, the Terrapins’ Hannah Warther tied the game at 14, temporarily keeping her team’s 86-game home win streak alive. What followed was a dominant stretch by Reznick. For the remainder of the game, Warther’s goal would be Maryland’s last as Reznick saved three shots on goal, with six other Terrapin shots missing their target.
With each save, she brought life to her team’s bench. And as the game progressed, chants of “Sarah,” flooded the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex.
Her season-high 14-save performance was capped off by a Shannon Kavanagh goal with 49 seconds. It sealed the upset for the No. 12 Gators, beating No. 2 Maryland 15-14 and giving coach Amanda O’Leary her first win over the Terrapins as the Gators’ head coach.
“She's in, in my opinion, she's one of the best goalies in the country,” O’Leary said. “It's fun to be able to see her come out on a game field and play at that level because that's what she does every day at practice.”
The win is also the first that the Gators knocked off the top-ranked team in the IWLCA rankings since April 12, 2012, when they beat Northwestern 8-7.
But it wasn’t just Reznick who had a career-defining performance in the win. During last season’s 17-12 loss at home against Maryland, Kavanagh was limited to one shot and left with zero points. While Reznick shored the Gator’s defense, the junior midfielder kept the offense afloat with a career-high eight goals, the second-highest total in a single game in program history. In two games, she has 12 goals, a tally that took the New York native five games to reach last season.
Redshirt freshman middie Emerson Cabrera left tallied her first career hat trick, while redshirt junior Brianna Harris added another hat trick to her season’s total, after scoring five goals in last week’s opener.
“I think that's just where we've grown tremendously; people just doing their jobs and doing them very very well,” O’Leary said. So [I’m] just really, really proud of this team and the effort that they've put in.”
To start the second half, Maryland coach Cathy Reese opted to substitute her starting goalkeeper, Maddie McSally, who allowed eight goals on 12 shots, for Emily Sterling. That move did little to solidify her team’s defense, as McSally allowed seven goals with four saves.
Maryland attempted 41 total shots. Florida had 26, three fewer than Maryland’s second-half total. And though Reznick had a stellar performance in the cage, the Terps had more game-clinching misses than Scott Norwood.
Against Colorado, the Gators struggled to limit turnovers caused by forced passes, but this effort showed a more poised performance. They only committed seven turnovers after giving the Buffaloes the ball 14 times.
But though it didn’t give Maryland free possessions through turnovers, UF was unable to limit free shots, as they committed 26 fouls to the Terps’ 13.
But nonetheless, they repeatedly found ways to prevail.
Last week, assistant coach Taryn VanThorf said: “to be the best, you have to play the best.” With a win against the defending national champions, Florida is showing it’s capable of being one of the best.
“This just didn't culminate today,” O’Leary said. “This is a culmination of what we do in the weight room, what we do in the classroom, what we do on the field.”
Follow Christian on Twitter @unofficialchris and contact him at Cortega@alligator.org.