STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The No. 6 Florida lacrosse team, overcoming cold weather and a tough Penn State defense, continued their win streak with a 13-7 win over the No. 16 Nittany Lions on Saturday afternoon at Bigler Field. The Gators are now 11-1 and 2-0 in the ALC.
Florida was led by sophomore Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.) with a school-record seven goals on 11 shots (.636) while adding an assist on the day for eight points overall. The reigning ALC Offensive Player of the Week now has 56 goals on the season.
Weather, which was consistently mentioned as a determining factor in this matchup as the Gators have played 10 straight games in the Sunshine State, never played a factor, as temperatures reached the 40s and the sun was out for much of the game.
“I was really impressed with the way we played today,” Florida head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “Penn State is an incredible team who is very well-coached. They’ve had some big wins this season and they were not to be taken lightly. We knew we had to play hard today to come out of here with a win.”
The Gators also saw multi-point performances from sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns (Ellicott City, Md.) and sophomore midfielder Caroline Chesterman (South Nyack, N.Y.) with five and two points, respectively.
The Orange and Blue also had key contributions from sophomore attacker Janine Hillier (Farmingdale, N.Y.), sophomore midfielder Colby Rhea (Abgindon, Md.) and junior attacker Caroline Cochran (Annapolis, Md.), who all found the back of the net for the Gators, and sophomore midfielder Brittany Dashiell (Bel Air, Md.), who assisted on Bruns’ goal before missing the majority of the contest with a concussion after an on-field collision in the first half.
Cullen scored her first goal right out of the gate, finding the back of the net after winning the draw just eight seconds into the contest. That score was Cullen’s 50th of the season.
Penn State had an answer in Aly Adams, who scored from free position less than two minutes later. Florida responded with a 3-0 run in just 2:30, courtesy of the sharp-shooting tandem of Cullen and Bruns, putting the Gators ahead, 4-1.
One of Penn State’s best scorers, Jen Steadman, put PSU back on the board with a score of her own with approximately 20 minutes remaining in the half. Both teams were then held scoreless for nine minutes before Cullen scored her fourth goal of the afternoon with 11:57 to go in the half. Penn State began their own 3-0 run, thanks to Adams and Steadman, to tie the game at 5-5 with 7:27 remaining.
Cullen once again led the Gator charge, overpowering the Penn State defense and their stellar goalkeeper, Dana Cahill. The Tewaaraton watch list honoree scored two straight to close the half and send the Gators into the intermission with a 7-5 advantage. She didn’t stop there, scoring her record-setting seventh goal just over a minute into the second half, sparking an assist streak for Bruns.
“I think what is good about our team is that we respect our opponents,” O’Leary said. “We’re a very young team but we respect whoever is on the field with us and don’t look ahead to other matchups. It’s a sign that we’re maturing every game.”
The Gators, who have been outscored in the second half of their previous two games, came out on fire in the second stanza, sealing the victory with six goals to the Nittany Lions’ two.
Rhea, who came in for the injured Dashiell, found the back of the net from Bruns just 30 seconds later. Chesterman then scored off a flick from Bruns from behind the cage for her first score of the afternoon, doubling Penn State’s goal total and holding them scoreless for 10 crucial minutes in the contest.
The Nittany Lions’ Katie Guy stopped the streaking Gators with a goal of her own before Chesterman found the back of the net again to put Florida ahead, 11-6. Chesterman’s score was impressive, as she was able to cut through the Penn State defense, spun around and was able to put the ball in the top left corner of the net, though barely glancing at her target.
Penn State scored their final goal of the afternoon from Laura Lesnick with 9:20 remaining in the contest and then it was Florida’s game, as Hillier scored less than two minutes later for her 16th goal of the season. Cochran found the back of the net just 1:40 later thanks to Cullen, who tied her career high with eight points on the afternoon.
The Gators were able to stall for the rest of the game and set a program record for overall and conference victories in a season, with 11 and two, respectively. As the draw goes, Florida goes, and today was no different. The Orange and Blue won 13 draw controls to Penn State’s nine. Chesterman and Bruns led the Gators with four and three draw controls, respectively, tying their career highs. The Nittany Lions won the battle for ground balls with 23 to the Gators’ 18.
Cahill had eight saves for Penn State while sophomore goalkeeper Mikey Meagher (Liverpool, N.Y.) was fantastic in goal for the Gators, notching eight saves and three ground balls.
Florida returns to the friendly confines of Donald R. Dizney Stadium to take on ALC foe Johns Hopkins on Saturday, April 9th. Opening draw between the Gators and the Blue Jays is set for 1:00 p.m.