Florida won a free-position penalty shot midway through the second half, and Ohio State keeper Tori DeScenza glared at Shannon Gilroy as she lined up 26 feet away from the goal.
The referee’s whistle cut sharply through the silence at Donald R. Dizney Stadium as the fans waited anxiously to see if Gilroy could extend Florida’s 3-1 lead.
Gilroy charged forward and fired a shot low. DeScenza kicked out her leg, blocking the shot. As the ball rolled to DeScenza’s left, Gilroy reached down and flicked it toward the open right side of the net.
DeScenza dove through the air down to the grass, swatting the shot down with her stick to deny the rebound attempt.
“We knew Florida was a great team shooting,” the freshman goalkeeper for Ohio State said. “We came out as a defense today and played as a unit. I trusted them in front of me and (was) just able to see the ball coming in.”
The heroic effort from the Buckeyes’ goalie nearly helped Ohio State topple No. 3 Florida in the semifinals of the ALC Tournament game, but the Gators hung on for a 5-4 win. The five goals scored matched the lowest scoring output in school history.
“I think Tori did a great job of keeping us in the game,” Ohio State coach Alexis Venechanos said. “They got a lot of shots early and her being able to make some saves with the defense gave us opportunities to run our game plan on the attacking end, and that was crucial.”
The Gators have now scored their season-low in two consecutive games after notching eight goals in a win over Northwestern in the season finale.
Florida coach Amanda O’Leary praised the Ohio State defense for playing excellently, but she also pointed out that the Gators have some issues to address on offense.
“You have to credit Ohio State. They came in with a great defensive game plan,” she said. “We need to clean up some of our offensive mistakes.”
Junior Kitty Cullen was held in check throughout the game, firing four shots at goal and coming up empty on all of them thanks to DeScenza’s strong night between the pipes.
“I think that their goalie was phenomenal,” Cullen said. “She was able to stop us all over the place. She just did a really awesome job.”
- Florida’s two goals in the first half matched the program’s worst first-half scoring output in school history. The Gators lost both times it happened previously, a 9-6 loss to Cornell on May 1, 2011 and a 16-9 loss to Vanderbilt in the ALC Tournament semifinals on May 7, 2010.
- The 2-1 halftime score was the lowest combined scoring output in the first half in Florida school history.
- Florida’s five goals were the fewest in a game this season, coming one game after the Gators put up their second-lowest total of eight against Northwestern. The five goals also matched the lowest in school history. The Gators lost both of the previous times it happened, falling to Northwestern 19-5 on May 2, 2010 and to North Carolina 18-5 on Feb. 28, 2010.
- DeScenza had eight saves in the first half and 15 in the game, her third highest in a half this season. Her previous bests were 11 against Stanford and nine against Canisius. DeScenza had 16 saves (eight in each half) against Northwestern earlier in the year, her career high.
- Prior to tonight’s game, Florida players huddled up and each downed some Gatorade O1 Prime to help with hydration. The Gators will likely need more tomorrow, with temperatures expected to reach the low 90s for the championship game at 12:30 p.m.
- The Northwestern players that stayed to watch Florida’s game against Ohio State were vocally cheering for the Buckeyes throughout the game from their seats in the bleachers on the Ohio State side.