No. 6 UF lacrosse looking to finish conference play undefeated at No. 17 Vanderbilt

The No. 6 Florida lacrosse team looks to close their conference slate undefeated as they take on No. 17 Vanderbilt on the road at the Vanderbilt Lacrosse Complex. Opening draw between the Gators and the Commodores is set for 2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday in Nashville .

Florida is coming off arguably the biggest win in program history, knocking off five-time (2005-09) national champion Northwestern on Thursday night, 13-11. With the win, the Gators clinch the No. 1 seed in the American Lacrosse Conference (ALC) Tournament, held at the Vanderbilt Lacrosse Complex, May 5-7. The Orange and Blue have secured their first regular season conference championship only 15 months from the program’s inception.

The Gators have outscored opponents, 199-106, since Florida’s overtime loss to then-No. 3 North Carolina, its only defeat of the season. Tewaaraton watch list honoree Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.) leads the nation in goals (67) and goals per game (4.79), while also ranking third in overall points scored (72) and points per game (5.14).

Ashley Bruns (Ellicott City, Md.) is 14th in the country in points overall (56) and in the top 20 in assists (21). Florida is fourth in the NCAA in win percentage (.929), fifth in scoring margin (6.92), seventh in scoring offense (15.0), eighth in scoring defense (8.08) and 10th in draw controls (14.38).

Cullen has doubled her goals from a year ago (2010: 31 G), while both Bruns and Cullen have already eclipsed 100 points in their young careers (Bruns: 135, Cullen: 109). Bruns, Cullen and Brittany Dashiell (Bel Air, Md.) are all riding 14-game scoring streaks, as each of them have notched a point (goal or assist) in every game this season. Bruns and Cullen have scored a goal in every game this season as well.

Sophomore goalkeeper Mikey Meagher (Liverpool, N.Y.) was named the ALC Defensive Player of the Week for her performance against Johns Hopkins last Saturday. This was the first ALC honor of her career, Florida’s fifth-straight ALC Weekly honor and the sixth of the season. Meagher is fourth in the country in goals-against average with 7.82. The Gator defense has held opponents to seven goals or less in six out of 14 games this season.

Meagher had her best game in a Gator uniform against Johns Hopkins last Saturday, saving a career-high 13 shots, good for second in program history. The second half was where the goalkeeper shined, saving 10 shots in the second stanza, a program best for saves in a single half. Every time Johns Hopkins would start to find their rhythm, Meagher came up big. If a Florida defender missed her mark, Meagher was there to make up for it and get the save. Her play was critical in the win against the Blue Jays.

She was unbelievable against the No. 2 Wildcats on Thursday, notching 10 saves, two ground balls and a caused turnover. Her play down the stretch, especially in the closing seconds with back-to-back saves following a free position shot from Northwestern, helped the Gators keep the momentum while down two players from yellow cards.

The Commodores are 7-6 on the season and have faced six ranked opponents this season, upsetting then-No. 7 Stanford. VU is currently third in the country in ground balls per game with 21.15, with junior Ally Carey ranking third in the country individually with 3.77.

Vanderbilt was represented on the ALC Preseason All-Conference team by 2010 First Team All-American Carey, who led the team with 63 draw controls, 49 ground balls, and 42 caused turnovers as a midfielder for the ‘Dores. She also added 40 goals and 26 assists during the season.

The Commodores are currently led by junior Courtney Kirk, who has 46 points on the season (21 G, 25 A). Junior Natalie Wills and sophomore Chelsea Pasfield have been sharing time in goal this season, teaming up for a 10.31 goals against average.

The Commodores were 12-6 last season, falling to No.1 seed Northwestern in the ALC Tournament Championship game. They lost a heartbreaker to then-No. 7 Duke in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament with a 15-16 last-second loss to end the 2010 season.

Florida is looking to defeat Vanderbilt for the first time in program history. Last year, the Gators fell to Commodores twice: a 7-12 loss to close their 2010 season at home before falling 9-16 in the ALC Tournament to end their historic inaugural season with a record of 10-8.

Game Notes

· The Gators are currently 13-1 on the season and are undefeated in ALC play, 4-0. The Commodores are 7-6 on the season and 1-3 in ALC play.

· Sophomore midfielder Brittany Dashiell and sophomore defender Emily Dohony had new career highs against No. 2 Northwestern. Dashiell had three assists against the Wildcats while Dohony came up with a game-high five ground balls.

· With a win on Sunday, head coach Amanda O’Leary would match her best season win total as a Division I head coach. In 1995, 1999 and 2003, O’Leary won 14 games with the Yale Bulldogs (1995: 14-2; 1999: 14-4; 2003: 14-4).

· While this is Florida’s first trip to the Music City, Gator teams have been incredibly successful against Vanderbilt. Football, soccer, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and women’s tennis all defeated the Commodores in Nashville this season while the women’s golf team finished in the Top 10 at the Mason Rudolph, hosted by Vanderbilt.

· Gator assistant coach Erica LaGrow is very familiar with Vanderbilt as a player. LaGrow was undefeated against the Commodores as an All-ACC midfielder at North Carolina, winning two at home and two in Nashville.

· Teammate Ties: Many members of the Gator coaching staff and roster are or have been teammates of current Commodores.

o VU’s Ally Carey and UF’s Brittany Dashiell (John Carroll)

o VU’s Catherine Mitchell and Kendall Pittinger, UF’s Lelan Bailey and Sam Farrell (Severna Park)

o VU’s Natalie Wills and UF’s Caroline Cochran (St. Mary’s)

o VU’s Taylor Lange and UF’s Emily Dohony (Hereford)

o Gator assistants Erica LaGrow and Caitlyn McFadden are currently U.S. National Team teammates with Commodore assistant Amber Falcone, who was also a teammate of LaGrow’s at North Carolina. The trio was part of the 2009 FIL Women’s World Cup Champion team.