Balanced attack leads No. 6 Florida lacrosse to 14-10 victory over Blue Jays

The No. 6 Florida lacrosse team, behind the scores of six different Gators and the stellar play of sophomore goalkeeper Mikey Meagher (Liverpool, N.Y.), defeated Johns Hopkins, 14-10, in front of a season-high 1,027 fans on Saturday afternoon at Dizney Stadium. Florida is now 12-1 on the season and 3-0 in ALC play, while extending their win streak to 12 straight and staying undefeated at home, 10-0.

The Gators were led in scoring by sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.) with five goals on the afternoon. Florida also saw multi-point performances from sophomore midfielder Caroline Chesterman (South Nyack, N.Y.), who contributed four points (3 G, 1 A) and sophomore attackers Ashley Bruns (Ellicott City, Md.) and Janine Hillier (Farmingdale, N.Y.) with three points apiece (2 G, 1 A each). Junior attacker Caroline Cochran (Annapolis, Md.) added a goal and an assist against the Blue Jays while sophomore midfielder Brittany Dashiell (Bel Air, Md.) and redshirt freshman midfielder Hayley Katzenberger (Damascus, Md.) added a goal and an assist, respectively.

“I’m really proud of the way we came out today,” Florida head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “It was a tough game and we were able to put a lot on the board early and hold on. The heat certainly affected both teams and I think we really pushed through.”

The Gators jumped out to a 5-0 lead early in the contest, as Katzenberger stick checked a Hopkins defender and Cullen was able to get the ground ball and race towards the goal. She scored her first goal just 13 seconds into the contest. The next seven minutes were quiet for both teams as goalkeepers Meagher and Johns Hopkins’ Cosette Larash had the opportunity to showcase their defense.

Hillier finally broke the stalemate with a score off free position eight minutes into the contest. Cullen answered less than a minute later off a pass from Bruns before Bruns scored one of her own to put Florida ahead, 4-0. Cullen hit the hat trick mark just 10:36 into the contest with a great feed from Cochran to go ahead 5-0 and force a Johns Hopkins timeout. The Blue Jays ended the Gators’ scoring run with a Brianna Cronin goal with 17:03 remaining in the half.

Hillier started things off again for Florida, scoring unassisted with 13:34 to go in the first stanza. Bruns found the back of the net 30 seconds later to put the Gators ahead, 7-1. Florida then took its largest lead of the half, as Chesterman scored from Katzenberger to make it 8-1. Johns Hopkins then began a run of its own, scoring three straight to inch closer at 8-4. Chesterman ended the Hopkins streak again with a score of her own to take a 9-4 lead into the locker room.

“We came out well and we rode that momentum well during the first half,” O’Leary said. “Again, we fell into a lull as we have the past few games but Mikey was there when we needed her.”

Meagher was on fire in the second stanza, saving 10 shots in the second half, which is a program record for most saves in a half. Meagher’s 13 saves on the afternoon was a career high and the second-highest in program history.

Dashiell scored her lone goal of the afternoon to open the scoring in the second half. Johns Hopkins had a score of their own three minutes later before Florida went on another scoring run, courtesy of Cochran. She found the open net thanks to an incredible play from her midfield. The Gators quickly passed the ball around the open net before Chesterman found Cochran open at the right side of the goal. Chesterman scored unassisted with half of the second stanza still left to play. Cullen scored her fourth goal of the afternoon just 1:14 after Chesterman to give the Gators’ their largest lead of the afternoon, 13-5.

Johns Hopkins, as they have done to opponents all season, came storming back, going on a four-goal run and closing the gap to just four goals at 13-9. The Gators were able to stop the momentum with Cullen’s final goal of the afternoon, thanks to a great pass from Hillier. Hopkins’ McCaffrey secured her hat trick against the Gators with a goal scored with only 58 seconds remaining in the contest. Florida’s early lead was enough to secure the victory, 14-10.

For the first time all season, the Gators were able to win without winning at the draw. Johns Hopkins had 16 draw controls to Florida’s 10. The Gators outshot the Blue Jays, 36-27, and won the game on the ground, notching 17 ground balls to the Blue Jays’ 11.

The Gator defense played one of their best games of the season. Florida’s defense consistently frustrated Hopkins’ offense, leading to Johns Hopkins’ 16 turnovers. Florida midfielder Sam Farrell (Millersville, Md.) held attacker Candace Rossi to just one goal on six shots, while Rossi held a .551% shooting percentage on goal heading into Saturday’s contest.

The Gators now look to Thursday when they will take on the No. 2 Northwestern Wildcats in their home finale. Both teams are undefeated in ALC play and this game will conceivably be the barometer for the No. 1 seed in the ALC Tournament. The Wildcats defeated No. 15 Penn State, 14-5, on Saturday and have the third-longest win streak in the country (11 games) behind No. 1 Maryland (13 games) and the No. 6 Gators (12 games). Opening draw is set for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday evening under the lights at Dizney Stadium.