When all else failed, Florida turned to junior midfielder Shannon Kavanagh, its hero of games past. But even Superman lost a battle, and as No. 10 Loyola limited Kavanagh’s production, her team also suffered through kryptonite-induced weakness.
After leaving Maryland with an upset victory last week, the No. 3 Gators (2-1) leave Dizney Stadium upset, following a crushing 17-6 defeat at the hands of the Greyhounds (3-0).
“The Maryland win doesn’t mean too much now,” coach Amanda O’Leary said. “At this point, we have to focus on getting better, and for us, that means working harder in practice and being ready to execute on a daily basis. That’s all we can ask from them.”
Loyola’s offense, headed by junior midfielder Sam Fiedler, who tallied seven goals and one assist, was the most dynamic the Gators have seen thus far. Though the on-ball movement was slow and methodical, off the ball, the Greyhounds never relented, cutting time after time to overload the crease and create scoring opportunities.
What resulted was scoring on a Thanos-like level of inevitability. When multiple Loyola players attacked, the defense was unable to bend with the pressure.
“We knew how dynamic their offense was,” O’Leary said. “I think [it was] a little disappointing in the fact that we had a strong gameplan. I don’t think we executed that gameplan very well.”
Livy Rosenzweig, the Greyhounds’ junior attacker, came away with six points off three goals and assists.
Though Kavanagh controlled a season-high nine draws, her three points (two goals, one assist) was her lowest this season. Grace Haus and Brianna Harris both added to Florida’s offense, scoring two goals each, but Loyola goalkeeper Kaitlyn Larsson saved 11 of the 17 shots on goal. Larsson’s ability to conduct the defense, calling early slides and double teams that limited the Gators’ ability to flow freely, led to 10 caused turnovers for the Greyhounds, along with 14 ground balls. Florida tallied five caused turnovers and 8 ground balls.
As Loyola-Maryland’s defense crippled Florida’s advances and its offense repeatedly penetrated the 12-meter fan, frustration mounted on O’Leary’s team.
It was that frustration that led to Florida committing 26 fouls.
Those fouls led to two free position goals on five attempts but, more importantly, they gave the Greyhounds repeated chances to dictate the flow of the game.
With four days to prepare for Kennesaw State, O’Leary’s focus has shifted away from the game’s result and onto improving the team’s composure.
“If they shut down Shannon, everybody needs to be confident enough to get to the goal cage,” she said. “Our shooting needs to be a lot better.”
The Gators will travel to Kennesaw, Georgia, on Wednesday for their next game. It’s set for 11 a.m.
Follow Christian Ortega on Twitter @unofficialchris. Contact him at [email protected].