May 14, 2011

Florida Sends Stanford on Long Journey Home

by Rachel George | | Live Blog Replay

Florida's Brittany Dashiell has the inside track on Stanford's Leslie Foard during Saturday's 13-11 Gators victory in the NCAA tournament's first round.

© Jim Burgess

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – As the two geographic outliers, Florida and Stanford were paired for a match of convenience. The rest of the NCAA Division I women's lacrosse tournament field wouldn't have far to travel, but the Cardinal would.

After a more than 2,700-mile trip and a five-hour rain delay, Stanford took the field at Dizney Stadium on Saturday for a matchup that yielded the intensity of later-round games.

The host Gators took a 13-11 win, giving them their first NCAA tournament victory in what has been a season of firsts for the second-year program.

Fourth-seeded Florida (16-3) got hat tricks from three players, withstood Stanford's comeback and stalled late to advance to the quarterfinals next week. The Gators will host the winner of Sunday's first-round game between No. 5 Duke and Penn.

"Certainly the intensity of this game I think deserved to be at a higher level," said Stanford coach Amy Bokker. "It's the nature of growth right now of our sport."

The Cardinal's cross-country trip covered more miles than the distance the other seven road teams traveled – combined.

Once the team arrived, Stanford (16-3) waited five hours as an early afternoon game was pushed back several times because of thunderstorms in Gainesville.

The Cardinal was slow to start, with Florida jumping to a 4-0 lead in the first six minutes thanks to a goal from Brittany Dashiell and a hat trick from Kitty Cullen, the player of the year in the American Lacrosse Conference.

Stanford scored four unanswered goals and Florida went more than 24 minutes without a goal before Janine Hillier scored 13.2 seconds before halftime to put UF up 5-4.

"Our defensive plan on Kitty Cullen in the first five minutes of the game wasn't very good," Bokker said. "The first five minutes of the game, and then the first two minutes of the second half and the last 30 seconds of the first half is kind of where it killed us."

Hillier and Dashiell, who finished with four and three goals, respectively, opened the scoring in the second half to extend the lead. But Lauren Schmidt's third goal tied the game. Leslie Foard, the player of the year in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, scored to put the Cardinal up 8-7 and give it its first lead.

"I think we've matured quite a bit over the past season," said Florida coach Amanda O'Leary. "We're doing a lot better at cutting away. If we get down, we get back into it."

The score stayed close until Hillier's back-to-back goals put UF up 12-10. Foard responded, but Cullen's fourth goal came with 10:15 remaining.

Florida stalled for nearly the final five minutes to hold on to the win.

The loss dropped Stanford to 0-3 in its NCAA tournament history.

Florida, meanwhile, continued its successful second season. After going 10-8 last season, Florida won the ALC regular season title, rose to as high as No. 2 in the IWLCA rankings and improved to 12-0 at home.

"I think that Florida's set the precedent. We are a program that, again, is of the highest standards," O'Leary said. "I know that there's a lot of programs out there that look at what we've done and they see the success that we've had and I think they're like, 'If Florida can do it, we can do it.'"

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