April 13, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Vanderbilt lacrosse team might be past moral victories. Still, the Commodores drew plenty of positives from a 14-9 loss to No. 4 Florida on Sunday.
Despite falling behind by six goals in the first half, Vanderbilt showed resolve, fight and solid defense in pulling within one goal twice. The game stayed close until the Gators scored two goals in the last five minutes to clinch the American Lacrosse Conference regular-season championship outright.
For Vanderbilt (4-10, 1-4), with two regular-season games remaining and the ALC Tournament in three weeks, the game offered a boost in confidence. This came less than 72 hours after Vanderbilt fell to No. 5 Northwestern. In all, the Commodores have played 11 teams currently ranked.
“I think the main thing is that our kids know they can play with these teams,” coach Cathy Swezey said. “This is the No. 4 team in the country and we played with them. We played with Northwestern two days ago. We’re coming off barely two days of rest. We played with these top teams. We’re not that different than they are. Things are going to start falling our way. Hopefully going into the last two games and the conference tournament we’ll have the confidence we need.”
After Vanderbilt pulled within three at halftime, Florida could never get comfortable. That was in large part to the Commodores’ offense, led by senior Alyssa Dunlap, who had three caused turnovers and two ground balls. Dunlap was tasked with guarding the nation’s leading scorer, Shannon Gilroy. And the captain never let Gilroy out of her sight, constantly face-checking her. Gilroy was scoreless in the first half and finished with two goals – her second-fewest this season. Just one was against Dunlap. The other came on a free position shot. Gilroy entered the game with a mind-boggling 71 goals.
“Alyssa was amazing today. Amazing,” Swezey said. “(Gilroy) only scored one on Alyssa when Alyssa was on her. She had a huge day. Alyssa has been playing consistently well for weeks now. So we weren’t surprised to see it.”
The Commodores scored first when Mallory Schonk bounced in a goal less than five minutes in for a 1-0 lead. Florida (14-2, 5-0) responded with two goals in the next 80 seconds and never relinquished the lead.
But even when Vanderbilt fell behind 8-2 with 11:41 left in the first half, the Commodores clawed back. Senior Abby Wheeler scored her second goal of the game and team-leading 30th of the season on a great one-timer from Sydney Trentzsch. Crashing toward the net, Wheeler put a nice touch on the ball to spark a Vanderbilt surge.
Then the Commodores began to gain some momentum at the draw. The coaches moved freshman Jill Doherty to the circle to give sophomore Kelly Chandler, who has been playing with a leg injury the past few games, a break. The switch paid off as, after Florida won the first 11 draw controls of the game, Vanderbilt won four of the final five in the first half. Doherty finished with a career-high four draw controls to go along with one assist.
Emma Dagres scored on a nifty spin move and Amanda Lockwood fired in a goal from eight meters out on the right wing to cut the lead to 8-5 with 3:05 left. Florida responded with a goal but the Commodores answered right back. Right before tumbling to the ground as she was fouled, Trentzsch scored with a shot to the right of goalkeeper Cara Canington after a pass from Lockwood with eight seconds left in the half. Trentzsch’s fourth goal of the season pulled Vanderbilt within 9-6 at halftime.
The Commodores picked up where they left off after the break. They patiently ran their offense and waited for holes in the defense to open up. Alexa Kunowsky snagged a pass from Schonk and unloaded into the net five minutes into the second half. Lockwood followed suit with her second goal of the day, another one from the perimeter, this time off an assist from Doherty. Suddenly, Vanderbilt was trailing just 9-8 with 23:28 remaining.
Florida quieted the rally momentarily as Gilory scored her first goal of the game as she cut to the net and scored on an assist from Devon Schneider. Schonk responded by beating Canington to her right for her second goal of the game and 20 th of the season to pull back within one, 10-9, with 19:59 left.
But after a Vanderbilt turnover, Sammi Burgess scored her career-high fourth goal of the game. Twenty-six seconds later, Lauren Lea fired in a goal to give Florida a three-goal advantage with 17:59 to go.
It turned out to be more than enough. Vanderbilt couldn’t muster enough draw controls, losing that battle 17-8, and ground balls, falling 23-17 in that category, to gain possession. Florida spent a majority of the final 15 minutes playing keep away as Vanderbilt struggled to get shots and had just 18 for the game, compared to Florida’s 32.
Junior goalkeeper Maddie Kratz put in another great day with nine saves. She has 36 saves in the past four games, including at least nine in each of the last three games.
Schonk, Lockwood and Wheeler each scored twice, while Kunowsky, Dagres and Trentzsch each added goals. Trentzsch, Lockwood, Doherty, Kunowsky and Schonk also had an assist. Several players worked overtime as subs were limited as Ashlin Dolan and Gabby Nesi remain out, Rebecca Ryan did not play due to an illness and Chandler was limited with her foot injury.
Vanderbilt returns to Nashville to host Jacksonville (9-5) at 3 p.m. on Wednesday for the final home game at VU Lacrosse Complex. The Commodores wrap up the regular season and ALC play on Saturday against Michigan (2-11, 0-5) in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“The score is what it is. We lost by five. But I can tell you it felt like a one-goal game the whole way,” Swezey said. “We fought hard. You are proud of your team when they can put forth that effort. I think we did that today.”