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Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Shannon Kavanagh
Shannon Kavanagh

For the second week in a row, junior midfielder Shannon Kavanagh proved to be the deciding factor for a Florida win.

Against No. 18 Colorado in the season opener, she scored the final goal to clinch the win. That clutch gene reappeared this weekend when she ended No. 2 Maryland's 86-game home win streak by scoring the game-winner in the Gators' upset over the defending national champions.

Her eight-goal performance was not just a career-high but it's the second-best total in program history. To casual observers, it shouldn't be an irregularity. Her ability to maintain composure as the odds of winning becomes a coin flip is to be expected of a back-to-back Tewaaraton Watch List member. 

Coach Amanda O'Leary sees things differently. 

"Everybody had to do their job in order for that play to succeed," she said. "People had to keep those defenders occupied on the backside. And I think that's just where we've grown tremendously, is people doing their jobs and doing them very, very well."

Against the Terrapins, the Gators' success followed the same pattern shown last week. Lose the first draw control, give up the game's first goal, and never allow either side to gather enough momentum to pull away early. 

In fact, through two games, it would not be surprising for Florida's record to be reversed. 

Against Colorado, Florida's offense stalled due to turnovers. They cut that total in half against the Terps, ending with only seven. But on Saturday, they allowed 41 total shots, which was compounded by their 26 fouls. After Florida led the Buffaloes in draw controls, Maryland finished the game with a +11 margin. 

But the only stat that matters is goals scored. Through two games, Florida has maintained a positive goal differential as they keep an undefeated record. 

Part of that falls in line with Kavanagh's dominance. In two games, she's scored as many goals (12) as she tallied through five games last year. There's also redshirt junior middie Brianna Harris, who tallied her second hat trick this weekend. 

Another veteran who rose to the occasion was Cara Trombetta, who held UMD's Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year Brindi Griffin to one goal on five attempts. 

But O'Leary's pride is bolstered by the rise of her underclassmen. Redshirt freshman goalie Sarah Reznick ended the game with 14 saves, a season-high and third-best in program history. And with  1.5 assists per game, Freshman attacker Kaala Puglisi has kept the offense flowing. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman midfielder Emerson Cabrera earned her first career hat trick Saturday while causing two turnovers.

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The Gators have had their faults this season. But O'Leary's team continued to find success and did so in one of the sport's most hostile environments. 

"We have, you know, a top 10 schedule," O'Leary said. "That's exciting. We're going to celebrate this victory, but come Monday, we're gonna be back to business working on the next game."

Follow Christian Ortega on Twitter @unofficialchris. Contact him at

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