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    Gators Come From Behind to Clip 'Cats, Claim ALC Crown

    May 4, 2014


    (12-6, 3-3 ALC)

    No. 3 Florida 9, No. 5 Northwestern 8
    Lakeside Field • Evanston, Ill. • Attendance: 575

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    ALC Tournament Central
    NCAA Tournament Selection Show (Sunday, 8 p.m. CT)

    (17-2, 6-0 ALC)

    EVANSTON, Ill. -- Aiming to upset a top-seeded Florida team for the third time in the last four American Lacrosse Conference championship games, fifth-ranked Northwestern looked poised to do so when it stormed to a 7-2 halftime lead on its home turf Sunday in Evanston. But the Gators clamped down defensively and converted all four of their free position opportunities in the second half to piece together an impressive comeback, claiming the last-ever ALC Tournament title with a 9-8 win over the Wildcats.

    Florida notched the game-tying tally with 9:50 still to play in the game, but neither team could come up with the go-ahead goal over the next nine minutes. The Gators took possession with just over three minutes left and eventually received the game-winner on a hard dodge down the center of the fan by Nora Barry with 32 seconds showing on the scoreboard.

    UF then won the ensuing draw and ran out the clock to escape with the victory, completing a role reversal from the regular season meeting between the teams when the Gators led by six in the second half before NU nearly tied the game in the final minute. For Northwestern, Sunday marked the fifth time in six defeats this season that it fell by just a single goal.

    The seven-time national champion Wildcats (12-6, 3-3 ALC) now await the announcement of the 26-team NCAA Tournament field, which will be made Sunday evening at 8 p.m. CT in an online selection show.

    Northwestern's success in the first half closely mirrored the winning formula it employed in defeating the Gators in last year's ALC title game, winning seven of 10 draw controls and working to find a high-percentage shot on attack. Senior Alyssa Leonard was at the center of those efforts, controlling five first-half draws and scoring four points with two goals and two assists over the first 30 minutes.

    Leonard's first helper came less than 90 seconds into the game when NU capitalized on a quick yellow card assessed to the Gators, as Christy Turner scored off a dish from Leonard to break the ice in the game.

    Florida then sandwiched a pair of goals around a Kate Macdonald free position score to keep the count level at two apiece. But the Wildcats took over from there, beginning when Kara Mupo scored with a spin to her left hand and a rocket under pressure past UF goalkeeper Mary Sean Wilcox.

    Ninety seconds later, Leonard threaded a nifty pass through traffic to hit Kelly Rich for Rich's 12th goal of the year, and Leonard kept things rolling less than two minutes later when she beat her defender and dropped to a sidearm shot to beat Wilcox and establish a 5-2 Northwestern lead.

    Mupo went unassisted for a goal once again at the 5:02 mark, and with 3:14 left before halftime Northwestern capped its 5-0 run when freshman Lydia Cassada calmly picked out Leonard on the crease for the Wildcats' seventh goal of the day.

    But Florida came out with renewed energy on the other side of halftime, quickly netting back-to-back 8-meter goals to pull within three on the scoreboard. Mupo completed her hat trick and scored her 33rd of the year off a feed from Lauren Murray at the 25:45 mark, but that proved to be the final time the Wildcats would find the back of the net on the afternoon.

    Tewaaraton Award favorite Shannon Gilroy broke through for her first of the day with a determined solo effort to cut Northwestern's lead to 8-5, and UF's Lauren Lea finished an 8-meter chance with 14:09 left to pull the Gators within a pair.

    Shortly after, Florida scored on a man-up opportunity, with Gilroy setting up Devon Schneider, before Mollie Stevens knotted the score at eight with an 8-meter goal to set up the tense final nine minutes.

    Florida finished with a narrow 18-17 advantage in shots -- with the Wildcats managing only four in the second half -- while NU's Bridget Bianco recorded six saves to best Wilcox's three.

    After the game, Leonard, Mupo and senior defender Kerri Harrington were named to be Northwestern's representatives on the American Lacrosse Conference All-Tournament Team.

    Northwestern and Florida complete their tenure in the ALC as the only two champions of the ALC Tournament, with the Wildcats claiming six (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013) Florida two (2012, 2014).

    2014 ALC All-Tournament Team
    Sara Beach (Michigan)
    Kelly Lechner (Penn State)
    Jill Doherty (Vanderbilt)
    Mary Kate Facchina (Ohio State)
    Katie Chase (Ohio State)
    Dene' DiMartino (Johns Hopkins)
    Taylor D'Amore (Johns Hopkins)
    Alyssa Leonard (Northwestern)
    Kara Mupo (Northwestern)
    Kerri Harrington (Northwestern)

    Mary Sean Wilcox (Florida)
    Nora Barry (Florida)
    Taylor Bresnahan (Florida)
    Tournament MVP: Shannon Gilroy (Florida)


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