With just above a minute and a half on the clock, Sophomore Liz Harrison headed to the draw circle after the Gators cut the deficit to one goal. The Gators carried an edge on the draws, but this was the biggest one yet.
This was a must-win draw for Florida and Harrison. The ball floated in the air and gravitated back to a ground ball scrum.
The Gators fought to win possession, but the outcome was clear. Stony Brook had possession, and all Florida could do was hope for a turnover, a turnover that never came.
Despite forcing two timeouts and pulling the goalie to go full pressure, it was all for naught, and the Gators dropped their third-straight game.
The No. 11 Florida Gators fell 14-13 at home to the No. 5 Stony Brook Seawolves in a physical battle. The Gators clawed their way back from an early deficit and fought through the fourth quarter, but the visitors from Long Island, New York held on for a crucial early-season win.
Sophomore midfielder Danielle Pavinelli led the way for the Gators with four goals and an assist. When the Gators were at their worst, Pavinelli found answers. Freshman Emma Lopinto scored a hat-trick after a quiet two weeks.
“Danielle is off to a fantastic start,” Florida head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “We need to give her some support around her. I think she's doing a fantastic job.”
The game’s physical tone was introduced early, with a Florida penalty leading to a Stony Brook goal from a free position shot. The two sides battled through the first quarter, but the Seawolves defense locked down the Gators through much of the first half.
The visitors used that defensive boost to gain a sizable lead, going up by as many as six goals in the first half. UF’s settled defense limited Stony Brook’s opportunities, but the Seawolves routinely capitalized on sloppy Gator turnovers and penalties.
Things were bleak heading into halftime, but the Gators scored a pair of goals before the first-half conclusion to trim the deficit to four. Florida rode that momentum into the second half.
UF finally found it’s offensive rhythm in the third quarter, scoring seven goals in the period. In the early part of the third quarter, Stony Brook answered every time Florida scored, but eventually the Gators went on a 5-0 run to finally close the gap and tie the game.
“I think we kind of settled in a little bit,” O’Leary said. “When you're not playing man-down defense, it helps get everybody more excited. I think we got more into a flow offensively. We got a lot of people with touches on the ball”
The final quarter was a new level of intense. Every ground ball became a battle, every possession felt like the last and the crowd was the liveliest it’s been all season. Both teams felt this was their opportunity for a signature early-season win, and neither left anything on the field.
Each team traded goals before Stony Brook took a late two-goal lead from two free-position goals. With just 1:32 left, UF junior midfielder Emily Heller converted a free-position goal of her own, cutting it to a one-goal lead.
That would be the last goal of the game and the Seawolves survived to claim the victory.
Florida’s offense was better than the score indicated in the second half, but Stony Brook graduate student Charlie Campbell was a brick wall for the SeaWolves, finishing with eight impressive saves. The Gators outshot the Seawolves 28-18, but the finishing wasn’t clinical enough.
“Got to put the ball in the back of the net. We had 28 shots. They had 18,” O’Leary said. “Can't leave 10 shots off the board.”
Penalties were the deciding factor in this match. The two teams combined for 58 penalties and 13 free-position shots. Almost half of Stony Brook’s goals came directly from penalties. It was a common sight to see one or both teams with one fewer player on the field due to a yellow card.
“We can't have those penalties. It just sets us on our heels,” O’Leary said. “It gives them an opportunity that they wouldn't necessarily have if we were playing even.”
Before the match, Florida issued 500 t-shirts sporting the slogan “Jada Strong” before the game in honor of the team’s honorary captain, Jada, who recently started her third battle with cancer. In addition to the t-shirts, the team played a video recognizing Jada during halftime.
The Gators will head on a two-game road trip this week, first visiting the Liberty Flames on Wednesday before meeting the Loyola Greyhounds on Saturday.
Contact Topher Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Topher_Adams.
Topher Adams is a third-year journalism major and one of the assistant sports editors for the Spring 2023 semester. He also covered Florida football lacrosse for the paper and loves to follow MLS soccer and professional lacrosse.