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It was a decision that shocked the world*.
On a whim, I decided to travel 788 miles to College Park, Maryland, to watch then-No. 12 Florida play against No. 2 and defending champions Maryland. I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see an 86-game home win streak snap and I could even pass by Washington, D.C. to see my girlfriend, Melissa, for Valentine’s Day.
When I left her apartment complex the next morning, a blast of wind colder than a polar bear’s toenails greeted me. I begrudgingly ignored it, got in my Lyft and let The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz’s podcast drown out the half-hour drive to College Park.
I got to the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex, where my name was nearly misspelled on my credentials, and sat in the press booth**. While both teams warmed up, the fans shuffled like penguins to their seats. The excitement surrounding what was about to unfold kept the spirits high and the mood warm; it served as a better way to fight the cold than an overpriced cup of coffee sold at the field’s concessions could.
Within a minute of the opening draw, Maryland scored the first goal. What ensued after was an offensive performance of the ages as Florida’s Shannon Kavanagh scored her rebuttal. That goal was the first of eight she had that afternoon. Whenever a shot of hers snuck past Terrapins’ goalie Maddie McSally, chants of “Shannon” caught like wildfire amongst the Florida bench.
Her performance, which attracted the attention of Terps defenders like moths to a flame, allowed the rest of her teammates to tally seven goals, including two hat tricks from midfielders Brianna Harris and Emerson Cabrera.
But with each goal scored by Florida, Maryland answered.
Eight minutes remained in the game when the Terrapins’ Hannah Warther tied it at 14. Her final goal was enough to reignite hope that the Terps’ home win streak would continue.
But for those eight minutes, Florida’s goalie Sarah Reznick remained calm and collected and held Maryland’s offense scoreless.
Florida’s offense couldn’t find an answer either, and, as each team missed shot after shot, the tension amongst the crowd rose.
It wasn’t until Kavanagh did as all superstar athletes do and rose to the occasion, scoring the winning goal with 49 seconds left. The Florida fans, who traveled in droves to watch history be made, erupted in cheers. Kavanagh and the Gators couldn’t bask in the moment as they had the better part of a minute remaining to defend their lead.
Forty-nine seconds later and the final horn announced a 15-14 victory for Florida. The team swarmed Reznick, who stifled opportunity after opportunity to send the game to overtime. It’s the first win over Maryland in program history.
It was a sight to behold. Rarely will I get an opportunity to see David beat Goliath. It’s why I knew I had to write about this moment in my life.
Barely over a month earlier, I had the opportunity to cover Florida’s win in the 2019 Orange Bowl. I never thought I’d have an opportunity to work in the same stadium where my favorite journalists got to cover the Dolphins disappointing Miami each Sunday. I viewed covering that game at the Hard Rock Stadium as a part of my career bucket list.
But that game paled in comparison to what unfolded in Maryland. Watching Florida fans support their team so far from home was a sight to behold and it was magnified by the electric performances from Kavanagh, Reznick and the rest of their teammates.
Each time I walk into the Alligator’s office, and I look at the wall decorated with email replies and memorabilia from games covered, I see my credential from that cold February day and I’m reminded of one of the best moments of my young career.
* Alligator Sports staff
** You’d think a field that houses teams which have combined for 23 national championships would have a better name, but I digress.