Three-year-olds aren't supposed to be good at anything — crying, maybe, or standing. And yet: Florida's three-year-old lacrosse program is maybe the nation's best, and the Gators' resounding 14-7 triumph over Northwestern in the ALC Tournament Championship (PDF) on Saturday was unquestionably the program's finest hour.
Freshman Shannon Gilroy had seven goals, matching the defending national champions, and the Gators never trailed, scoring 41 seconds into the first half and protecting that lead with efficient offense and hellhound defense on a day when the sweltering Gainesville heat chased no less eminent a Gator than athletic director and program godfather Jeremy Foley to the shelter of the scarce shade at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. After Northwestern equalized at the 25:08 mark of the first half, Florida responded with the first of Gilroy's goals on the day at 24:04, and the Gators never relinquished that lead, holding it for a staggering 58:15 of their matchup with the top-ranked Wildcats.
Four goals from Gilroy in the first half helped Florida race out to a 5-1 lead that became a 7-3 halftime advantage, and she and Northwestern's Amanda Macaluso traded goals for a stretch of about 10 minutes that bridged the late first and early second halves, preventing the Wildcats from getting a foothold on their climb back into contention. Florida's dominance in possession — thanks to a massive 18-5 edge on draw controls — left the Wildcats doing a lot of chasing on the day, and Gilroy used her strength to charge to the net time and again.
Kitty Cullen also had three goals and an assist for Florida, and Carolina Chesterman added two goals and a pretty assist to Brittany Dashiell on a give-and-go, but goalkeeper Mikey Meagher was about as impressive as Gilroy on the day, with nine saves on 16 shots, and earned ALC Tournament MVP honors for allowing just 11 goals in two games. (Florida defeated Ohio State, 5-4, on Friday.)
Joining her on the ALC All-Tournament Team were Gilroy, Dashiell, and defenders Sam Ferrell and Jamie Reeg, the latter of whom shut down 2011 Tewaaraton Award winner Shannon Smith, limiting her to three shots and keeping her out of the net for the first time in 64 games, ending a scoring streak that dated back to the end of her freshman season in 2009.
Florida's victory is its third in five games against Northwestern, making the Gators the rare program in women's lacrosse with a winning record against the Wildcats since their dominance of the sport began. Since 2005, Northwestern has won six of seven national championships, only failing after losing in the 2010 final, and has compiled an absurd 164-9 record.
Florida, with a program that is three years old and plays no seniors, has given the Wildcats three of those losses, and handed Northwestern its worst defeat of the Kelly Amonte Hiller era today. By crushing the defending champs today, the Gators likely earned themselves the top national seed for the 2012 NCAA Tournament, and could very possibly be the favorite to take the national title.
What were you doing when you were three?