NASHVILLE — Sophomore midfielder Brittany Dashiell (Bel Air, Md.) scored the game-winning goal from free position with 30 seconds remaining in the second half to give the No. 6 Gators their first American Lacrosse Conference regular season championship outright, defeating the No. 17 Vanderbilt Commodores, 8-7. Dashiell’s goal secured Florida’s first undefeated conference season and it was the first true game-winner in Florida history.
The Gators were led by sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns (Ellicott City, Md.) with five points on the afternoon, contributing a hat trick and two assists. Dashiell and sophomore midfielder Caroline Chesterman each contributed two goals while redshirt freshman midfielder Hayley Katzenberger (Damascus, Md.) added her fifth goal of the season. Dashiell, sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.) and sophomore attacker Janine Hillier (Farmingdale, N.Y.) each had an assist for the Gators. Sophomore goalkeeper Mikey Meagher (Liverpool, N.Y.) had seven saves in goal for Florida.
“Vanderbilt came out hard and stymied our attackers,” Florida head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “Their attackers did a great job. Chelsea Pasfield, their goalie, was fantastic. Vanderbilt fought for every possession.”
The Gators fell behind early, courtesy of All-American Ally Carey and the Commodores’ leading scorer Courtney Kirk, who teamed up for a Vanderbilt goal just 12 seconds into the contest. VU found the back of the net again on a Katherine Denkler goal less than two minutes later. Florida, who hadn’t fell behind by two goals since their only loss of the season against then-No. 3 North Carolina, wasn’t going to be held scoreless for long, as Bruns scored unassisted to bring the tally to 1-2 4:29 into the contest.
Denkler put Vanderbilt back on the board with the first of the Commodores’ three free position goals but Bruns answered once again, scoring back-to-back goals in just 1:03. The Ellicott City, Md. Native scored her second goal of the afternoon unassisted, as she came from the right side of the goal and shook off two Vanderbilt defenders. Her third goal came from a great pass from Cullen, knotting the score at 3-3. The teams continued to trade goals, as Kendall Pittinger scored from Carey.
Katzenberger then found the back of the net from Dashiell, as she was able to weave her way through the Commodore defense and score to even the game at four goals apiece. Both teams were held scoreless for 5:30 before Chesterman scored from a behind the goal pass from Bruns to give the Gators their first lead of the afternoon, 5-4. Vanderbilt’s Alex Priddy scored from free position to tie things up again at 5-5. Dashiell scored her first goal of the afternoon from Bruns with a little over two minutes remaining in the half to put Florida ahead by one, but the lead was short-lived. Carey scored from Emily Franke to put the Gators and the Commodores even at 6-6 heading into halftime.
The second half was a tale of two defenses, as the defense for both teams combined to produce 12 turnovers in the second stanza. The Commodores caused five turnovers on the afternoon while the Gators caused six. Ground balls were even for the teams, tied at 14 apiece for the contest. The Gator defense played as a unit on Saturday afternoon, holding Florida’s seventh opponent this season to seven goals or less. After Franke scored from free position less than three minutes into the second half, both teams were held scoreless for 18 minutes as the defenses put on a show.
The stalemate was finally broken by Chesterman as she scored the tying goal with 9:51 remaining in the contest. She scored from the left side of the crease from Hillier to keep the teams even at 7-7. Both the Gators and the Commodores had their chances to regain the lead, but it wasn’t until Dashiell got fouled in the eight-meter with 30 seconds remaining that the Gators got their final chance for the victory. As Dashiell lined up on the hash mark, the majority of the Vanderbilt defense found themselves on the opposite side, having been placed there from the spot of the foul. Dashiell scored her 28th goal of the season and sealed the victory for the Gators, 8-7.
“I think having played three conference games in a week was difficult for us,” O’Leary said. “I have to give all the credit to our trainer, Anna Hale. We had girls who were banged up from our victory over Northwestern on Thursday night. If not for her tireless work in getting our girls healthy, we wouldn’t have been able to fight through to win. She worked constantly to get the girls treatment while we were at home and here in Nashville and it was her dedication that got all of our starters back on the field today.”
The Gators are now off for the next two weeks before heading to face Cornell on Sunday, May 1 in Ithaca, N.Y. The matchup between the Gators and the Big Red is set for 12:00 p.m.