#3 Florida Edges #14 Ohio State in Defensive ALC Semifinal

“I think their goalie (Tori DeScenza) played phenomenal,” said Florida attacker Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.) “She was able to stop us all over the place and she did a really awesome job. I think we were lucky enough to have people on our team this year like Nicole (Graziano), who can come off the bench, give us a spark and get some goals in there. I credit their goalie a lot; she did a really great job.”

Nora Barry got the scoring started at 20:48 in the first half, when Gabi Wiegand tossed a perfect pass from the left side to Barry in front of the net, earning the second-ever man-down goal for Florida. Alayna Markwordt evened the score on a wraparound goal just over a minute later, but Barry struck again, this time assisted by Dashiell, to put UF back ahead, 2-1.

The remaining 18:49 of the first half featured 13 shots and six turnovers but no more points on the board, as the Gators headed to the locker room holding a slight, 2-1, advantage.

The scoring drought continued another eight-and-a-half minutes at the start of the second half, until Caroline Chesterman found Dashiell breaking in towards the goal circle and lifted a perfect pass from the point to stun DeScenza with goal number three.

However, the Buckeyes were far from out of it, and at 16:46, Markwordt bounced in her second unassisted goal to cut the lead to one. Rachel Wiederkehr won the ensuing draw, and just 17 seconds later, Markwordt did it again, knotting the score at three.

The score remained tied for just over four minutes, when freshman Nicole Graziano dove through the 8-meter arc and laced in a hard line drive to give the lead back to the Gators, and less than two minutes later, Dashiell connected with Graziano for Florida's fifth goal of the night, to give UF a small cushion to protect in the final 10 minutes.

The Gators' back line kept the Buckeyes silent for close to 10 minutes, but with 48 seconds remaining in regulation, Jamie Reeg (Atlantis, Fla.) headed to the bench on a yellow card. After two shots by Ohio State, Florida seemingly gained possession of the ball, but a goal circle violation put it back in the Buckeyes' hands, and with seven seconds left on the clock, Gabby Capuzzi cut the lead down to one, 5-4.

The stage was set for an Ohio State comeback, but freshman draw specialist Shannon Gilroy controlled the final draw and kept OSU from a chance at the game-tyer, as UF held on to win, 5-4.

The nine-goal combined score is by far the lowest in Florida history, surpassing the previous low of 15 met three times, most recently at Northwestern in the 8-7 victory two weeks ago. The Gators had been held to five goals twice before, but this was the fewest-ever scored in a UF win.

Florida returns to action on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. to face top-ranked, second-seeded Northwestern in a rematch of the 2011 ALC Championship game.

“Northwestern is a great team,” Cullen commented. “They're No. 1 in the country for a reason. I think they're going to be out to get us since we just beat them a few weeks ago. We've completely moved past that game and we're focused on tomorrow. We're going to learn from and move past tonight and get ready for tomorrow and we're going to focus on ourselves and get back to the basics.”

Florida has won the past two regular-season match-ups, but the Wildcats edged the Gators, 10-9, in last year's conference finals. The ALC Championship game will be streamed live for free on GatorVision and can be heard on local radio WRUF 850AM, with Cory Stephens, Mike Gillespie and Kailey Mizelle on the call.

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