Sophomore attacker Emma LoPinto whipped around the crease and fell to the ground with 7:52 remaining. She launched the ball into the back of the net to produce the first Gator lead since the first quarter.
The Gators tacked on two more goals and held onto their lead to move on to the final round of the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
The No. 8 Florida Gators (15-3, AAC 5-1 ) beat the East Carolina Pirates (9-9, AAC 2-3) 12-9 in the semifinal round of the AAC Tournament. The Gators trailed the Pirates for a majority of Thursday’s match until the final minutes of the game.
ECU won the opening draw and went straight to goal, but redshirt junior goalkeeper Sarah Reznick saved the shot.
Redshirt senior Paisley Eagan carried the ball upfield and passed it to sophomore attacker Emma LoPinto, who dodged past an ECU defender and bounced the ball into the net.
The Gators’ early lead was short-lived after ECU graduate student midfielder Camryn Pennypacker received a penalty shot and tied the game at one.
Florida passed the ball upfield after the shot clock ran out on the Pirates’ offensive end. Senior midfielder Emily Heller received a penalty shot and regained UF’s lead, 2-1.
ECU senior midfielder Ellie Bromely held onto the ball until she found enough space to shoot and tie the game again at two. Pirates senior attacker Frances Kimel followed Bromley’s goal; she snuck around the crease to break the tie and put the Pirates in the lead.
Florida responded when junior attacker Maggi Hall saw freshman midfielder Kaitlyn Davies cut across the eight-meter arc and passed her the ball to tie the game at three.
ECU graduate student attacker Sophia Locicero scored a buzzer-beating goal at the end of the first quarter to secure a 4-3 lead.
East Carolina sophomore attacker Erin Gulden scored in the top of the second quarter, and the Pirates’ lead moved to two points.
Florida responded with a clean draw control by junior attacker Liz Harrison. Hall saw Heller slide across the top of the eight and passed her the ball. Heller scored and pushed the Gator’s score to 5-4. Pennypacker answered with a sixth goal for the Pirates.
In the following play, Florida earned possession of the ball off a failed shot attempt by ECU sophomore midfielder Emily Stratton. Hall drove to the goal but gave it to fifth-year attacker Tayler Warehime to cut the deficit to one.
In the last three minutes of the first half, ECU sophomore attacker Leah Bestany performed a classic crease roll and snuck past Reznick and junior midfielder Madison Waters. Hall answered with a one-on-one goal to record a 7-6 deficit for Florida.
The junior midfielder received a penalty shot at the beginning of the second quarter. Hall looked up and passed the ball to Waters, who scored to tie the game at seven.
Stratton scored off a free position shot to break the tie and put ECU back in the lead. The Gators entered the fourth quarter down 9-7. Hall dodged ECU’s defense and shot at a low angle for the first point of the final frame.
Florida sophomore midfielder Josie Hahn won the draw and handed the ball off to Hall. Hall saw LoPinto at the top of the crease and assisted her to tie the game at nine.
The Gators secured their first lead since the first quarter; LoPinto circled around the crease and put her entire body into her shot as she fell to the ground. UF led 10-9 with the time winding down
With 90 seconds left in the game, Hall saw Eagan creep into the eight and passed her the ball. Eagan quickly launched a back-handed shot and recorded the first multi-goal lead for the Gators.
Hall ended the game with a hat-trick goal to secure a 12-9 win for Florida.
The Gators will next play the James Madison Dukes at noon Saturday. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.
Contact Kate Wiggins @email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @katewigginz.
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.