No. 1 Gators Escape Great Danes to Advance to Quarterfinals

Gainesville, Fla. Florida extended its winning steak to 14 this afternoon, outlasting the University at Albany's offensive stall technique in a 6-4 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Gators are now 2-0 in NCAA First Round competition, improving to 18-2 overall on the year. With the loss, UAlbany finishes the season at 12-6, falling in the first round for the first time.

"Credit Albany for just a fantastic job today," Head Coach Amanda O'Leary said. "They came in here with a ton of heart. They were scrappy. John (Battaglino) came in with a team that was incredibly prepared to play. So credit Albany for a great game.

"I'm really proud of our kids as well. I think they came out and they competed. I don't think everything went as we had scripted, but still competed hard, played hard, and came out with a win."

Shannon Gilroy (Northport, N.Y.) followed her outstanding performance against Northwestern with another solid outing in the midfield, leading the Gators with five draw controls and two goals, and helping UF to earn a 10-2 advantage on draws. Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.) put up a goal and an assist, and Nora Barry (Marcellus, N.Y.), Brittany Dashiell (Bel Air, Md.) and Nicole Graziano (Mendham, N.J.) each added a goal.

The Gators defense was lights out once again, holding its opponent to single digits for the 16th time this season. Kayla Stolins (Glen Arm, Md.) led the charge with three of the Gators' 10 caused turnovers, marking the third-straight game in which Florida caused at least 10 TO. Mikey Meagher (Liverpool, N.Y.) held firm in the cage, making five saves while allowing just four goals.

Jess Antelmi led the Great Danes with three of UAlbany's five points, notching two goals and an assist. Mel Rorie caused three turnovers for the Great Danes, and Anna Berman made three saves, allowed six goals, and tabbed a game-leading five ground balls.

Nora Barry won the opening draw, and just 36 seconds into the postseason, Ashley Bruns (Ellicott City, Md.) passed up to Barry at the top of the arc, who drove through the UAlbany defense and buried the ball in the back of the net.

Florida won the next draw, but a turnover created by Anna Berman gave UAlbany its first possession, which the Great Danes intended to hold onto. Throughout the entire game, UA took its time with the ball on offense, maintaining the ball for several minutes at a time without making a direct move to the goal.

"It was a great game plan, clearly," O'Leary said. "They were able to maintain possession. They worked for the perfect shot and a bunch of times they were able to convert on it. I think it's a great game plan. It worked."

Trailing 1-0, the Great Danes held the ball for upwards of six minutes, before a foul in the arc sent Ariana Parker to the line on free position. Meagher made her first save of the day, and soon the ball was back in UF's hands.

The Gators did not waste any time once the ball was in their possession, and just 11 seconds after the successful clear, Bruns found Dashiell right in front of the net, sending a one-timer into the cage for goal number two at 22:18.

The Great Danes continued to slow down the pace of the game, but midway through the first half, the Gators were able to score two quick goals. At 16:35, Cullen found Gilroy in the middle, who ducked an attacker's stick, pulled off a spin move through a double team, and while still maintaining possession, found the back of the net. Nicole Graziano then beat out a one-on-one run from the 30 just over two minutes later, to give Florida an early, 4-0 lead.

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