Lacrosse: Northwestern loses ALC crown to Florida

Rohan Nadkarni

The only champion the American Lacrosse Conference Tournament has ever known was knocked off its perch Saturday.

No. 1 Northwestern (17-2, 4-1 ALC), the only overall winner in the tournament’s five-year history, fell to No. 3 Florida (17-2, 5-0), 14-7.

“They 100 percent deserved to win,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “They were excellent all over the field, played very smart and took advantage of every opportunity they had.”

Unlike the teams’ meeting in Evanston, a back-and-forth affair which Florida took by one goal, the Gators dominated this game throughout.

Florida scored seven goals in each half. In the second 30 minutes, the Wildcats never got closer than three goals as the Gators kept their foot on the gas.

The game started inauspiciously for the Cats when the Gators scored only 41 seconds in.

After NU sophomore Kara Mupo tied the game at one, Florida’s Shannon Gilroy scored the first two of her seven goals, followed by another pair from Kitty Cullen.

After four straight goals from Florida, NU traded goals with Gilroy to go into halftime at a 7-3 deficit.

The second half was a similar story. Junior midfielder Amanda Macaluso opened the frame with her second goal and sandwiched her third around another score from Gilroy. But after Macaluso’s third goal drew the game to 8-5, the Gators pulled away by scoring the next three to put the game out of reach.

Senior Lacey Vigmostad and junior Taylor Thornton also scored for NU in the second half, but Gilroy added two more before Nora Barry put the cherry on top for the Gators.

“She’s just so poised,” Amonte Hiller said of Gilroy. “She is a great threat on the field, and she always puts her shots away.”

On the other extreme of Gilroy was senior attacker Shannon Smith.

Last year’s Tewaaraton Award winner was absent from the score sheet, failing to register any points. Smith remains in second place on the school’s all-time scoring list and was not named to the ALC All-Tournament team after the game.

However, the real killer for the Cats was possession control, as the Gators won 18 draws compared to only five for NU.

“Florida wanted the ball more than we did,” Amonte Hiller said. “They were just winning plain old 50-50 battles. There’s no real science to it.”

The Cats’ focus will now switch to the NCAA Championships. The defending champion now has a serious threat in the Gators, who have defeated NU in three of the last four meetings.

For Florida, the win signified a shift in the paradigm of women’s lacrosse. The talent gap between programs has been closing quickly since the start of NU’s dominant run.

“It is a historic step,” Gators coach Amanda O’Leary said. “For us to come out and compete the way we did today, I think it was a momentous occasion.”

It is possible the teams could face each other for a third time in the NCAA Championships.

Despite Florida seemingly having NU’s number, a third contest is not one players like senior defender Alex Frank will shy away from.

“Yes,” Frank said. “If we get matched up with them, sure, we’ll take it.”

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