Kygo’s “Stole The Show” blasted around the arena as emotions ran high for the Gators.
Florida had just been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament by USC, and as the players began to line up for the postgame handshake, tears were visible from Florida’s seniors.
But as they were walking off the field wearing Orange and Blue for the last time, the music started playing and “Stole the Show” captured the moment perfectly.
“We used to have it all, but now’s our curtain call,” the song goes. “So hold the applause, and wave out to the crowd, and take our final bow.”
The No. 3-seed Gators fell 15-12 in a heartbreaking loss. Players were trying to fight back tears long enough to shake hands with the Trojans before completely breaking down.
Their journey was now over.
However, through it all, they helped UF “steal the show”. They helped the Gators reach as high as No. 2 in the polls and pull off wins against Syracuse and Stony Brook, and earn multiple conference titles.
“I'd like to thank our group of seniors; they have been a tremendous influence on us this season,” coach Amanda O’Leary said. “I'm so very proud of each and every one of their accomplishments.”
Just like in previous seasons, though, they couldn’t overcome the second round hump.
“It’s been a great four years here, but unfortunately we were unable to get it done in those four years,” senior defender Caroline Fitzgerald said. “I hope that people look at this moment and know how badly it hurts to end your four years this way, and I hope it sparks something in one person’s mind to work a little harder or not take that play off.”
Trojans goalie Gussie Johns made 14 saves on 26 shots on goal, and stopped Florida from taking control of the game when the Gators seemed to be gaining momentum.
On top of strong goaltending, USC benefited from some strong performances on offense. Cynthia Del Core had four goals and an assist, Kerrigan Miller notched three goals and an assist and Kylie Drexel scored two goals and two assists.
“They went aggressively through all aspects of the game, and I think we certainly came out prepared for that,” O’Leary said. “I just don’t think we executed all that well on either end of the field.”
For Florida, a big day from attacker Sammi Burgess kept the Gators in it. The Fallston, Maryland, native had five points on a goal and four assists, and Mollie Stevens, Allie Pavinelli, and Carli Marsh tacked on two goals each.
Florida didn’t start the game like it normally did through most of the regular season. The Gators were down 6-3 midway through the first half, but UF worked its way to 7-6 at halftime. When play began following the intermission, the Gators opened with a 4-1 scoring run to take a 10-8 lead, their largest of the game.
However, UF found itself on the wrong end of a highly-competitive battle down the end of the stretch.
In the second half, the game was tied five times, before USC pulled away by scoring the last four goals.
Just like that, the Gators were done, and the realization of the loss kicked in.
But as the music blared through the stadium for the last time this season, some of the words rang true for the Gators.
“Oh, it’s our time to go, but at least we stole the show.”
Contact Jake Dreilinger at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @DreilingerJake.