Florida lacrosse's high-flying offense came into its date with the top-ranked, undefeated, and defending national champion Northwestern Wildcats in Evanston on Saturday facing the toughest task of its year. And the Gators did get shut down, scoring eight goals and just three in the second half — but they also upset the Wildcats, 8-7, for maybe the program's biggest win, and won the American Lacross Conference's regular season title.
Gabi Wiegand had two goals and two assists for Florida, part of an attack that got two goals each from stalwarts Kitty Cullen and Ashley Bruns. The Gators earned a 5-2 halftime lead, but lost it early in the second half after five Northwestern goals in less than seven minutes. They would trail for just 57 seconds, though, as Nora Barry equalized in the 11th minute of the second half, and Wiegand's goal with 5:47 left gave the Gators their final margin of victory.
Florida is now 2-2 in its history against Northwestern, with wins last year in Gainesville and this year in Evanston making up for a 19-5 drubbing in the program's first season in 2010 and a loss in the ALC Tournament in 2011. It may also be the signature win for Amanda O'Leary in her short career as Florida's only lacrosse coach: the Gators took the best that the defending national champions, widely viewed as the nation's finest team again, had to offer, and got an enormous road win despite being hampered on offense.
The loss was Northwestern's first since April 16, 2011, and snapped a 23-match winning streak. The Gators are the first lacrosse team to top Northwestern in consecutive seasons since Vanderbilt did so in 2003 and 2004, before the Wildcats embarked on their current streak of dominance that has included six of the last seven national championships. (If you would like to read the purple-tinted account of Northwestern's loss, there's one here.)
Florida's regular season is now over, and the team enters the ALC Tournament, which begins May 3 in Gainesville, as the No. 1 seed. The Gators will play the lowest remaining seed on May 4 in the second ALC Tournament semifinal at 7 p.m. Eastern.