On Sunday afternoon, head coach Amanda O’Leary walked to midfield to shake the other teams’ hands after a hard fought game. When she turned around to look into the stands of Dizney Stadium, O’Leary smiled and put her face in her hands while blushing.
A crowd of 840 was cheering “Mandy, Mandy”. They all were holding up signs saying “200” to mark off O’Leary’s 200th career win.
“You credit the student athletes. You credit these young women who work so hard,” O’Leary said. “These victories aren’t self-earned. We have a great support staff. This is a team win; you don’t get those as a coach without tremendous assistant coaches. I really feel blessed. The University of Florida really provides you with all these opportunities to earn 200 wins, so I really need to credit everyone else.”
The No. 4 Florida Gators (12-2, 2-0) helped O’Leary earn her 200th win in their 20-11 rout of No. 10 Penn State.
The Penn State Nittany Lions (8-4, 1-2) started off by scoring the first two goals. After having a 3-1 lead at the 25 minute mark, the Nittany Lions thought they were off to hot start.
The Gators quickly changed the Lions’ minds.
The Gators went on a six-goal tear to bring the game to 7-3. Penn State found the back of the net here and there throughout the game, but they could not find any momentum to string together a scoring streak like the Gators.
Even though the Florida defense allowed 11 goals, they took care of Penn State’s attack. The Nittany Lions’ four leading scorers coming into the game scored a combined four goals. Tatum Coffey, their leading scorer
with 25, was held to one goal on only four shots.
The Gators won the possession category in Sunday’s game. Florida beat out Penn State 16 to 12 in ground balls. The crucial category was the draw controls where the Gators dominated, winning 23 of them compared to the Nittany Lions’ nine. The Gators’ 23 draw controls tied for their second-most in a game.
Freshman Shannon Gilroy made a huge impact in the game and led the charge for the Gators with seven draw controls of her own. This was her first game back after sitting out last game due to injury.
“I use my strength to my advantage,” Gilroy said, “And my height, I’m really tall so I’m able to get up and get the ball.”
Both Penn State and Florida had roughly the same amount of fouls at 26-24, but the difference was the hard fouls committed. The Nittany Lions committed four fouls that resulted into four yellow cards in a five minute-span. Overall, Penn State got carded six times to Florida’s one.
“We talk about it day-in and day-out and just limiting the yellow cards,” O’Leary said. “To play man-down defensively is horrible, it’s really hard. We talk about body-positioning, not swinging and just playing smart.”
Out of Florida’s six man-up situations, the Gators scored on five of them.
Gilroy’s strength was prevalent every time she went to goal. Three separate instances Gilroy ran to goal and got fouled hard by a Penn State defender which resulted into the defender getting a yellow card.
Each time on the free-position shot, Gilroy lined up, sprinted forward when the whistle blew, and scored. On the day, Gilroy recorded five goals which is a new career-high.
“Shannon (Gilroy) had a spectacular day today,” O’Leary said. “She is just one of those players that are special. She is strong, has a great stick, and has a nose for the goal. When you put all that together, there are a lot of special things that can happen and I thought she showed it really well today.”
Gilroy and the rest of her teammates had to step up in Sunday’s game because junior star Kitty Cullen was still out with a concussion. When she will be back is unclear, but the Gators aren’t skipping a beat without her.
While missing one of their potent offensive threats the last two games, the Gators have scored an average of 24.5 goals.
Seven different Gators scored a goal in the game, and six Gators had two or more. The Gators have stayed in sync even in the absence of their offensive leader.
“As a whole, I think everyone is out there being a leader,” junior Ashley Bruns said. “I didn’t hear one negative thing come from anybody today. We were there pumping each other up and staying with it while being excited all game. We miss Kitty (Cullen) so much. She is such a great player and she adds so much to our offense, but we keep her in the back of our head as we play out there and try to make her proud.”
Bruns finished the game with four goals on ten shots.
The Gators will be preparing all week for their next game on Saturday when they will travel to Baltimore, MD to play No. 12/17 John Hopkins (7-2). The Gators are now 4-2 against top 20 opponents and have won their last four games against those top teams.
With this win, O’Leary became the 12th women’s lacrosse coach in NCAA history to earn 200 career wins at the NCAA level. Her players really wanted to earn this win for her.
“Oh my gosh, it was incredible,” Bruns said. “We are so proud of her and we love her as a coach. We don’t want anybody else to coach us but her.”