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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Florida wins American Athletic Conference Tournament Championship

UF leaves James Madison scoreless in fourth quarter

Florida attacker Liz Harrison fights for a draw control during the Gators' 14-13 loss to the Terrapins Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023
Florida attacker Liz Harrison fights for a draw control during the Gators' 14-13 loss to the Terrapins Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023

In the last quarter of the American Athletic Conference Championship Tournament, sophomore attacker Emma LoPinto cut from behind the goal and scored the match point. 

Shortly after, junior attacker Maggi Hall assisted senior midfielder Madison Waters who broke the 8-8 tie and recorded the winning goal. 

The No. 8 Florida Gators (16-3, AAC 5-1) won the 2023 AAC Championship after defeating the No. 6 and first-seed James Madison Dukes (17-1, AAC 6-0) Saturday afternoon. 

Florida junior attacker Liz Harrison won the opening draw and secured the first offensive possession for the Gators. Florida worked the ball around until junior attacker Danielle Pavinelli saw senior midfielder Madison Waters cut inside, and Waters scored the first goal.

On the next play, junior attacker Ashley Gonzalez passed the ball from behind the goal to Pavinelli to push the Gators’ early lead to two. 

JMU scored with  8:55 left in the first quarter. The Dukes scored again shortly after and tied the game at two. 

On the first play of the second quarter, Pavinelli assisted sophomore attacker Emma LoPinto who broke the 2-2 tie. 

The Dukes responded with two consecutive goals to break the tie and leave the Gators behind by one point. 

On the following draw, Harrison caused a turnover and passed the ball to the Gators’ offense. Junior attacker Maggi Hall went in for a shot, but instead pivoted and found senior midfielder Emily Heller who tied the game at four. 

JMU scored off of a penalty and retook the lead. The Dukes scored again on the next play and left the Gators in a two-point deficit. 

Pavinelli passed the ball to Hall who carefully placed her shot in the back of the net. The Gators trailed 6-5 at the end of the first half. 

In the beginning of the third quarter, Heller passed the ball to Pavinelli who cut in from the outside and beat JMU’s goalkeeper to tie the game at six. 

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Harrison won the next draw and quickly passed the ball to Hall. Hall looked for a shot but instead handed it to Gonzalez. She waited until Pavinelli cut across and found the sophomore attacker who scored to break the tie. 

The Gators’ lead was short-lived as the Dukes received a penalty shot and tied the game once again at seven. 

Florida fought for the next five minutes to break the tie, but JMU scored with 51 second left in the third quarter and took the lead. 

LoPinto kicked off the final frame with a low-angle shot off an inside roll on the crease to tie the game at eight.

Hall assisted Waters who broke the tie and restored the Gators’ lead.

Florida protected their leading score for the remaining ten minutes and secured their tenth conference championship win. 

Redshirt junior goalkeeper Sarah Reznick ended the game with a total of ten saves and surpassed the previous record holder for all-time saves in program history with 567 under her belt. 

The Gators will advance to the National Collegiate Athletics Association tournament for the 12th time in program history. 

Contact Kate Wiggins Follow her on Twitter @katewigginz.

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Kate Wiggins

Kate Wiggins is a second-year advertising major and women's lacrosse reporter for The Alligator. Catch her pumping iron at Southwest Rec, double-scooting her friends to class, or dancing around at the nearest EDM concert.

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