By Ryan Rodd
The Florida lacrosse team dominated the Fairfield Stags 15-7 on Wednesday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium to improve to 9-1 on the season. Not indicative of the score, Gators carved up the Stags with 23 first half shots and jumped out to a 12-2 lead by halftime. The Gators will head into this weekend’s matchup with Ohio State riding a season high nine-game winning streak.
Florida also picked up key contributions by all 12 starters, whom, besides goalkeeper Mikey Meagher, all had at least one scoring strike.
Starting in place of Colby Rhea, redshirt-freshman Hayley Katzenberger got the start, and did not waste her opportunity, contributing to the UF victory with two goals. She also got her team off to a fast start controlling the opening draw, which led to a quick first-strike by midfielder Kitty Cullen. Katzenberger said getting the first possession for Florida was crucial for the team’s strong start,
“It was really exciting,” Katzenberger. “It was great to get it and bring it down to our offense. It’s really comforting to have it on our side of the field the first play.”
But Katzenberger wasn’t the only player stepping up, UF star attacker Ashley Bruns led the Gators in scoring with six points — three goals and three assists. On several occasions in the first half, Bruns led the attack playing from behind the goal, which opened up many scoring opportunities for her teammates. For an offense that doesn’t waste those chances, the Gators racked up 12 goals, and a season-high, eight players scored.
Despite their dominance on both sides of the field during the first 30 minutes, the Gators appeared complacent most of the second half. The Stags came out of the break playing like they had nothing to lose, and ended up outscoring the Gators in the half, 5-3.
With the help of strong goalkeeping from Katie Keenen, the Stags matched the speed and doubled the intensity of the Gators, who were busy trying to score on Keenen on isolation plays. Towards the end of the game, things got a little chippy and both sides received yellow cards, adding to the sloppy play for the Gators in the second half.
Florida coach Amanda O’Leary acknowledged the resiliency of the Stags to stay alive, but was also critical of her team’s play in the second half. However, she said her team is willing to put this game in the books and look forward to the next one.
“This group sort of savors a victory but then realizes you have to move on,” O’Leary said. “You know, savor it for the evening, but then get back to work.”
Aside from the poor second half, the Gators looked every bit the team that has moved up to No. 9 in the latest IWCLA rankings. Their speed and handling was superior to Fairfield and the team’s leading goal scorer, Kitty Cullen, had a field day; knifing through a weaker Stag defense for four goals. Cullen has now moved her season total to 43, the best in the country.
The Gators will look to continue their winning streak this weekend when they face off against Ohio State in Gainesville at noon.