The No. 10 Florida lacrosse team battled against a quick, aggressive Syracuse squad to defeat the No. 11 team in the country, 16-11, in front of 937 fans at Donald R. Dizney Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Gators were led by sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns (Ellicott City, Md.), who tied her career-high and her own school record with six goals while adding an assist for a season-high seven points. Florida also saw hat tricks from sophomore midfielders Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.) and Brittany Dashiell (Bel Air, Md.).
Sophomore attacker Janine Hillier (Farmingdale, N.Y.) tied her career high in points with four (2 goals, 2 assists), adding two draw controls. Sophomore attacker Caroline Chesterman (South Nyack, N.Y.) scored and added an assist while sophomore midfielder Jamie Reeg (Atlantis, Fla.) scored her first goal of the season.
The Gators were a perfect 4-for-4 from free position and outshot the Orange, 27-20. Florida won the battle on the draw, 18-10, continuing the Gators’ streak of winning the game when out-drawing their opponent. Chesterman and Dashiell each had a team-high four draw controls, which is Chesterman’s career high.
“The draw is so important,” Florida head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “When you possess the ball, they can’t score. Those 18 draws were critical because we needed possession of the ball. Their attackers are such threats and if you give them an inch, the ball is going in the back of the net.”
The teams traded goals in a highly-contested first half which saw five ties and six lead changes. Syracuse’s Tee Ladouceur, who had four goals on the afternoon, put the first goal on the board for the Orange a little under five minutes into the contest. Hillier had an answer less than a minute later, after she was able to score from free position to put the Gators on the board. Brittany Dashiell scored just over a minute later to give the Gators a 2-1 lead. Ladouceur found the back of the net again to tie things up at 2-2 before Katie Webster scored from free position to give the Orange the lead once again.
Bruns scored her first goal of the afternoon less than a minute later to tie the teams at 3-3 before Michelle Tumolo scored for Syracuse with 16 minutes remaining in the first half. Bruns found the back of the net again to put the Gators ahead 5-4 before Webster scored again to tie the game at five goals apiece with 5:31 to go in the first half.
Syracuse stalled frequently but the Gators notched a turnover and were able to get a Bruns score from free position with 3:14 remaining in the half to take the lead for good. Florida took a 6-5 lead into the locker room at halftime and never looked back.
“I think we handled their pressure really well,” Bruns said. “We made smart decisions and played hard. We didn’t let up.”
Florida went on a 3-0 run just 1:54 after the intermission, sparked by Cullen’s first goal of the afternoon, assisted by Hillier just 48 seconds into the second half. The Gators found the back of the net on a Hillier score less than a minute later before Cullen scored on a free position 20 seconds later.
Syracuse looked to be getting the momentum back, scoring back-to-back goals, but a crucial turnover won by the Gators in the Florida backfield gave the momentum back to the Orange and Blue, as Bruns scored back-to-back goals of her own. Bruns was double-teamed on the next possession and found Chesterman in front of the net to put the Gators ahead, 12-7, with 12:41 to go.
Webster scored with a little over 10 minutes remaining and the Orange were able to win the corresponding draw control but a Syracuse turnover gave Florida possession and the Gators scored back-to-back goals in 34 seconds, starting with a Dashiell score from outside the 12-meter. Cullen scored from Chesterman with a little over eight minutes remaining to put the Gators ahead, 14-8. Ladouceur scored her final goal of the afternoon from Tumolo before Bruns scored unassisted once again.
The Orange were able to rattle off two more goals before Reeg sealed the win for the Gators with a score from Hillier with just one second remaining in the contest.
“It felt really great to beat a team that went to the Final Four last year,” Dashiell said. “I’m really proud of how hard we played.”
The Gators switch their focus to the Fairfield Stags, who lost to Hofstra on Saturday afternoon, 15-6. The Stags are 5-3 on the season thus far.