When Temple faced the University of Florida on April 2 to start Big East Conference play, the Owls found themselves trailing by one at halftime against the No. 2 ranked team in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association poll.
The Owls (13-6, 5-4 Big East) nearly went into the halftime locker room with a one goal deficit Saturday at Georgetown University’s Cooper Field. However, a goal by junior midfielder Mollie Stevens put the Gators up by two with 15 seconds left in the first half.
The goal started a 6-0 run for Florida, who outscored Temple 12-2 in the second half on the way to a 16-4 win. The Gators repeat as Big East champions and have won three straight conference championships going back to their 2014 title win in the now-defunct American Lacrosse Conference. The No. 1 seed has won the Big East tournament for the fourth consecutive year.
After Stevens’ goal, the Gators came out fast in the second half. Freshman midfielder Sydney Pirreca, the No. 1 recruit from the freshman class, scored her second goal of the game 29 seconds into the half and Big East Co-Attacker of the Year Sammi Burgess added a goal 14 seconds later to make it 6-2. The goal for Burgess was career goal No. 100 for the Big East first-team selection.
Big East freshman of the year Lindsey Ronbeck, Pirreca and Big East midfielder of the year Nicole Graziano added goals to give the Gators a 9-2 lead with 22 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in the half.
The Gators won eight of the first 10 draws to start the second half, allowing them to control the offensive play. Florida held a 10-4 advantage in ground balls for the game, including 4-1 in the second half.
“When you get scored on you want to get the ball back, and we did,” coach Bonnie Rosen said. “We had a couple key times that we did get the ball, but we didn’t convert and then Florida converted on the other end. So pretty much, every mishap that we had moving forward offensively, resulted in a goal going in the other direction. It was tough. Florida played a really nice game. They shot the ball really well. They outplayed us today.”
The Owls ended the Gators’ run when first team Big East junior midfielder Morgan Glassford scored with 18:25 left in the half. Glassford, who earned all-tournament team honors, broke a stretch of more than 28 minutes without a goal for the Owls. Senior midfielder Nicole Tiernan added a free position goal with 16:01 remaining, but the Owls’ deficit was too much to overcome.
The Gators offense got 15 shots in the second half, putting 12 of them past redshirt-senior goalkeeper Jaqi Kakalecik. Burgess, Ronbeck, Graziano and Pirreca each had hat tricks for the Gators. Graziano’s four goals led all scorers Saturday afternoon.
Ronbeck’s free position goal with 9:08 remaining put Florida up 14-4, enforcing the running clock for the rest of the game. The Gators converted on all five of their free position opportunities.
“They were able to come up with a couple of foul calls that allowed them to get those free positions, which we’ve been pretty good all year of not giving up too many,” Rosen said. “Today, Florida, they just shoot the ball well. They’re accurate, they shoot the ball hard, and they’re some of the best offensive players in the country, and it showed today.”
In the first half, the Owls played similarly to the way they played during their 10-9 loss in Gainesville, Florida in April. Using a deliberate offensive attack, the Owls scored on all three of their shots on goal in the first half. Senior attacker Brenda McDermott’s goal with 16:52 left in the half brought the Owls within one goal, but it would be Temple’s last goal until Glassford’s in the second half.
In addition to Glassford, senior midfielders Kirstie Connor and Megan Tiernan earned all-tournament team honors. Connor scored five goals against Connecticut and Tiernan had three goals in the tournament, including one on Saturday.
Because of their loss, the Owls will hope to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Thirteen conference tournament winners earn automatic bids to the 26-team tournament. The selection show will be on Sunday at 9 p.m. on ncaa.com.
The Owls are No. 28 in the RPI, with a quality win against UConn, according to a graphic on the Fox Sports 2 TV broadcast.
“I would think that we are outside and not getting in,” Rosen said. “I guess stranger things could happen, but I’m not expecting it in any fashion. I can take a look at things, but I’m not really sure how I see us getting a spot. I think we’re just outside the spot, but we’ll pay attention to it and see what the selections look like.”
Evan Easterling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling.