Junior Kitty Cullen picked up a ground ball about 25 meters out from the net. She quickly turned around and locked in on the goal.
She made a swift spin move around the oncoming defender. As she was 12 meters out, three defenders closed in on Cullen. The defenders tried to push her outside, but she pushed back inside.
As Cullen pushed the defender away with her shoulder, she launched the ball with an underhand shot to keep the ball on the ground. The ball went right through the goalie’s legs and hit the back of the net.
“It’s easier when you are farther out so I can kind of pick up speed because that’s one of my strengths,” Cullen said. “(Assistant coaches) Erica (LaGrow) and Caitlyn (McFadden) have just taught me so much. They taught me the farther out you go and just come with a full head of steam, no one is going to be able to stop you.”
No. 10 Dartmouth came to Gainesville with the sole intention to keep up with and beat the Gators on their home field, but that didn’t happen. On Tuesday night, the No. 4 Florida Gators (9-2, 0-0) took down the Dartmouth Big Green (5-1, 1-0) by a pulverizing score of 20-4.
The Gators started off the contest by scoring five unanswered goals in the first 10 minutes. The Big Green was finally able to find the back of the net in the eleventh minute in the match. No matter what Darthmouth did though, the Gators had an answer and then some.
The Gators scored 17 goals alone in the first half. Those 17 goals set a program-best for goals scored in a half for Florida.
The second half was not as goal-heavy as the first half, in fact it was much more defensive oriented. The Gators held Dartmouth scoreless. Their defense was resilient holding their top two scorers, Sarah Plumb and Kirsten Goldberg without a goal.
“Whenever they are looking to get the ball to drive,” junior Sam Farrell said referring to Dartmouth’s Plumb and Goldberg, “Our teammates know that when my girl or Jamie (Reed’s) girl have the ball that they were going to collapse right away and they were going to double right. It was just a huge team effort on that.”
The two Dartmouth players had only four shots each and were made into a nonfactor from the start. Florida’s defense was all over Dartmouth’s attack.
Along with the defense, Florida’s goalkeeper Mikey Meagher had a phenomenal day. She played 52 of the 60 minutes in goal and only allowed three goals to get by her. She was able to save eight shots which was a vast improvement compared to Florida goalkeeper’s past performances this season.
Possession was another key to this game for the Gators. They beat out the Big Green 14 to 11 in draw controls and 25 to 11 in ground balls. The Gators possessed the ball for majority of the game and that was Coach Amanda O’Leary’s plan all along.
“We knew today was going to be about possession,” O’Leary said. “The game plan was to be disciplined on the defensive end, not swinging, and waiting until they came to us.”
The key story to the game though was offense, offense, and more offense. The Gators were scoring at will converting on 20 of their 39 shots. Juniors Ashley Bruns and Gabi Wiegand scored four goals apiece. Junior Brittany Dashiell added in on the fun with three goals of her own along with two assists.
The impact player for this game though was Cullen. She scored five goals to bring her total to 29 on the season, second best to Wiegand. She has now scored a goal in 35 consecutive games, and at the rate she is moving around defenders it doesn’t look like that streak will end soon.
“She is a tremendous attacker,” O’Leary said. “There are not many teams, if any, that can stop her. She is that dynamic. She is that good.”
On top of her impressive goal output, Cullen picked up three assists in the game. She is now leading the team with 18 assists. To put that in perspective, in her first two seasons with Florida Cullen racked up a total of 15 assists overall. She has gotten better at distributing the ball to the open player.
“When she was double-teamed,” O’Leary said, “She was the first one to pass out of the double-teams and find the free players. I think Kitty’s game is evolving. She is getting better and better each day.”
The Florida Gators’ next opponent is No. 15 Ohio State. The Gators will have to travel to Columbus, Ohio for Saturday’s game. The opening draw will be at 1 pm.
Cullen will look to lead the Gators against another top 20 opponent. Whether that’s scoring, assisting or just leading the team, Cullen will look to have another sensational game.
O’Leary though would just call that, “Kitty being Kitty.”