For 15 minutes, it appeared High Point would maintain steady control of Saturday’s game. Florida’s defense couldn’t find an answer to the Panthers’ repeated counter-attacks, and the offense struggled to evade pressure early-on.
It had the makings of a performance that could've been compared to the men's basketball team, as UF struggled to play to its potential.
But in a heartbeat, the Gators went on a six-goal run.
It started with redshirt junior attacker Brianna Harris’ second goal to pull her team within one. The flurry was capped off by freshman midfielder Emily Heller’s fadeaway goal, the likes of which would impress Dirk Nowitzki. They never looked back as No. 5 Florida (5-2) beat High Point (1-4) 17-10 at the ‘Diz.
“When we went down by a couple of goals, I thought, ‘Well okay, when are we gonna put the pedal down?’” coach Amanda O’Leary said in a release. “I don’t think they ever give up and that’s what this group is all about.”
Early yellow cards by junior attacker Grace Haus and freshman defender Becky Browndorf almost catalyzed a repeat of Tuesday’s seven yellow card performance. Quick learners, they quickly cut down their propensity to commit fouls, and regained control of the game’s momentum along with their balance.
That helped redshirt freshman goalie Sarah Reznick find her form after surrendering four goals while High Point’s Sarah Zeto was a five-foot-two wall during the same 15-minute span. By game’s end, Reznick won the battle of the Sarah’s with a .444 save percentage compared to Zeto’s .393. It took 37 minutes for Reznick to allow another four goals.
“I think we can help [Reznick] a little bit more defensively in certain situations, but ultimately I thought she came through with some huge saves that were momentum changers,” O’Leary said.
Reznick was supported by a defense that had 10 caused turnovers and recovered 18 ground balls. The unit was led by senior defender Emily Petillo, who had three GBs and CTs, the latter tied a career high. Close behind was fellow senior Cara Trombetta, who finished with three CTs and two GBs.
The performance was crucial in slowing down a High Point offense that in spite of its record, opened the season ranked 25th nationally and has been capable of finding goals in bunches. Additionally, the Gators held the Panthers leading goal scorer Ashley Britton to zero points on seven shots attempted. Of the team’s top scorers, only Nicole Pugh scored a hat trick this afternoon, and overall, they were held to 10-of-27 shooting.
Florida had a dominant performance controlling draws, pulling away 21 of 29 in the circle. It was a sight to behold as junior midfielder Shannon Kavanagh controlled a career-high 13 draws.
The offense was led by Harris, who finished with her second five-goal performance of the season. She also had three assists.
Kavanagh scored four goals and had a helper of her own while Heller had her first career hat trick.
Redshirt freshman Emerson Cabrera had two goals while junior attacker Kassidy Bresnahan, sophomore middie Maggie Corbo and freshman midfielder Shelton Sawers each scored a goal.
The Gators will have two days to rest their legs before they play No. 17 Navy on Tuesday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium at noon.
“We talked about the mental and physical grind of this season,” O’Leary said. “We need to be able to do this and this is a challenge for them, but I think it's also a place where we can grow.”
You can contact Christian Ortega at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @unofficialchris.