It wouldn’t be a Northwestern-Florida lacrosse game without it coming down to the wire.
The ALC Championship game came down to the final seconds with Florida ultimately coming out on top with a final score of 9-8 in a dramatic comeback victory. The ALC title has gone to either Northwestern or Florida every year since 2007 and now both games they have played this year have been nail-biters.
On Apr. 19, Florida got the best of the ‘Cats, winning 13-12. And today, they did it again, in another one-goal victory.
Despite a 7-2 halftime lead, the ‘Cats couldn’t hold on. They were outscored 7-1 in the second half, and, with 32 seconds left in the game, Florida’s Nora Berry put in an unassisted go-ahead goal.
Head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller will now have to regroup and prepare for the NCAA tournament. Hiller was emotional after the game.
“We did everything wrong in the second half,” she said.
This was the final game of the ALC before it is disbanded and a Big Ten lacrosse conference is created. The conference was in existence for 13 years.
Kerri Harrington, Alyssa Leonard and Kara Mupo were all named to the All-Tournament team following the game, and Florida’s Shannon Gilroy was named the tournament MVP. The ‘Cats will be at it again next weekend in the first round of the NCAA tournament, which they have won seven times since 2005.
“We can play with anyone,” Hiller said. “The biggest issue is we tend to kill ourselves and we tend to turn the ball over and we have to, when we have an advantage, we have to utilize that advantage.”
Studs & Duds
Bridget Bianco: After giving up 13 goals the last time she faced Florida, Bianco held the Gators to nine goals. Time after time, when the defense faltered, she was there to pick up the slack. She saved several point-blank shots, ending up with six total saves. She’s been a brick wall the whole year, earning ALC Defensive Player of the Week three separate times this year. But today, it wasn’t quite enough.
First half: Last time the ‘Cats played Florida, they fell behind immediately and had to play catch up the whole game. Today, that was reversed. The ‘Cats scored early and often, pulling away towards the end of the first half. The 7-2 first half lead wasn’t too much for Florida to overcome, as the ‘Cats faltered down the stretch.
Kerri Harrington getting in the face of Shannon Gilroy: Senior defender Kerri Harrington had one job today – to shut down Florida’s superstar Shannon Gilroy. She did her job. Gilroy, who averages 4.5 goals per game (which is first in the nation) only scored one goal today. But in the process, Harrington got in her face, apparently talking trash in an attempt to get in her head. Harrington limited Gilroy’s effectiveness all game with that in-your-face style of defense. She was also named to the All-Tournament team.
Second half: Florida dominated the second half just as much as Northwestern did the first. They came back from a 7-2 deficit and outscored the ‘Cats 7-1 in the second half. The powerful Wildcat offense was silent, allowing the Gators to come all the way back.
Yellow cards and fouls: There were five yellow cards issued today, in addition to a total of 40 fouls. Towards the end of the game, Florida was able to capitalize on those costly turnovers and force the comeback. The Gators also made the most of their free-position shots.
Consistency: This is the second time Northwestern hasn’t been able to keep up the intensity for the whole game against Florida. In their first meeting, they started slow and almost came back with a big second half. Some of the credit goes to Florida, which is one of the best teams in the country, but that doesn’t explain outscoring the Gators 7-2 in the first half and then getting absolutely dominated in the second.