On the 6th day of Gators Christmas
When Syracuse’s Sarah Holden deposited a shot in the back of the net 2:02 into sudden-death double overtime, the top-seeded Florida Gators were eliminated in the lacrosse NCAA semifinals.
But what a run it was.
For a program in just its third season, the Gators did nothing but impress in 2012. Florida won its second consecutive American Lacrosse Conference Tournament regular-season title, beating then top-ranked Northwestern twice to do so.
Remarkably, it was the first time since 2004 the Wildcats, who had won six of the previous seven NCAA championships, lost to the same opponent twice in a season.
Continuing on, Florida earned a matchup with Syracuse in the Final Four by beating Albany and Penn State.
For coach Amanda O’Leary, the rapid success was humbling and still somewhat surprising.
“It is at times very surreal,” O’Leary said. “The more we look back, and we sit and say, ‘OK, this is wonderful.’”
Year Three was a continuation of the momentum build in the previous year. In 2011, the Gators became the fastest program ever to be ranked in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Association top-5.
Florida seemingly was headed toward the title game when Long Island native Gabi Wiegand scored what appeared to be a game-winning goal in the first overtime against Syracuse.
The Gators, who squandered leads late in the match, celebrated when Wiegand scored a free position goal with nine seconds remaining in overtime.
However, Syracuse sophomore Alyssa Murray called for a stick check, which determined Wiegand’s stick was in fact illegal and the goal was discounted.
Moments later, Holden scored the game-winning goal.
“Unfortunately, stick checks are part of the game,” O’Leary said at the time.
Florida junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell was in the midst of celebrating the apparent win when she learned about the stick check.
“It was hard for us because we were cheering and excited,” Dashiell said. “We thought we had won the game.
“It was unfortunate, but it was smart by Syracuse to call the stick check.”
Despite the bitter disappointment of what could have been, the loss to Syracuse was one of the finest moments the University of Florida saw in 2012. In as little as three years, Florida’s lacrosse program transformed from a fledgling squad into a national powerhouse.
The short-term results were painful, but they quickly gave way to lasting optimism moving forward and pride from what was accomplished.
“I’m proud of my team and proud of our season,” O’Leary said.
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|Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas|
2013 Basketball Commits
|Clermont (Fla.) Montverde Academy|
|Bonifay (Fla) Holmes County|
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