Gainesville, FL – The No. 3 recruiting class in the nation justified its high rank this evening, as the Gators’ newcomers combined for 12 goals in their 17-2 rout of the England National Team. Florida made an extremely successful showing in its first international competition, promising that the Gators plan to pick up right where they left off at the end of their record-breaking 2011 season.
“I’m just really pleased with our effort,” said Head Coach Amanda O’Leary. “This is our first international competition, I think we were a little jittery in the beginning, but overall just really pleased with the effort of our team, both offensively and defensively, and certainly in the goal cage. I thought Cara (Canington) and Mikey (Meagher) played tremendously.
“Our freshmen came out, you never know what you’re going to get with your freshmen the first time they put on the Gator uniform, but boy, what an impressive night … Overall I’m really excited with where our freshmen are.”
Gabi Wiegand (Bay Shore, N.Y.), a junior transfer from the University of Richmond, turned everyone’s heads as she led the team with five goals and two assists for seven points in her first appearance in donning the Orange and Blue.
“She can distribute the ball,” O’Leary said of Wiegand. “She can score, she’s a threat whenever she has the ball. So, we’re just thrilled that she’s become a Florida Gator.”
Freshman Nicole Graziano (Mendham, N.J.) scored four goals in the game, including going 2-for-3 on free-position attempts, while adding a ground ball and a draw control. Returning All-American Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.) notched three goals and an assist and freshman Nora Barry (Marcellus, N.Y.) potted two in her Orange and Blue debut. Juniors Ashley Bruns (Ellicott City, Md.) and Brittany Dashiell (Bel Air, Md.) and freshman Taylor McCord (Jacksonville, Fla.) each pitched in a goal apiece, and Caroline Chesterman (South Nyack, N.Y.) chipped in an assist.
10 of the Gators’ 12 starters recorded a ground ball in the game, with Dashiell leading the midfield with three ground balls and three draw controls. Barry, Sally Jentis (Ridgewood, N.J.) and Emily Dohony (Parkton, Md.) each recorded two draw controls as well.
Brittany Dashiell got the ball rolling early in the first half, netting the first goal of the game at 25:41 on a free-position shot. Kitty Cullen followed her score with three of her own over a four-minute span, with a net from Nora Barry in between. Nicole Graziano scored her first of four goals in her Gator debut at 16:36, just 12 seconds after Cullen’s third score, to put the Gators up 6-0.
Gabi Wiegand made some noise late in the first half, scoring a pair of goals exactly three minutes apart, including a diving shot in traffic just outside the crease, to give the Gators a daunting 10-0 lead with 6:48 to play in the first.
Rachel Kirchheimer put England on the board with five minutes to go in the first half, but Ashley Bruns followed with a score off a quick pass from Wiegand to put the Gators back up 11-1 heading into halftime.
Wiegand continued to roll after the break, scoring two goals in the first three minutes, the second assisted by Chesterman, before a 7:46 scoring lapse for both teams, the longest of the game.
Hannah Barnsley broke the silence at 19:24, but that would be all that England could muster, as the Gators scored four more, including a late goal with just over a minute to play by freshman Taylor McCord, to complete the Gators’ 17-2 rout.
In goal, Mikey Meagher (Liverpool, N.Y.) and Cara Canington (Bel Air, Md.) each allowed just one goal in 30 minutes of play, while combining for a total of 10 saves, Canington leading with six.
Cat Gaunt allowed 11 goals and made four saves for England in the first half, and Sally Keogh allowed six goals in the second half. Rachel Kirchheimer and Hannah Barnsley scored the two goals for England, both unassisted, and Ruby Smith had three of England’s eight ground balls.
The Gators outshot England, 32-13, led 16-8 in ground balls and 15-6 in draw controls. The teams were roughly even in turnovers, with Florida committing 15 and England losing 14.
The Gators have a little over two weeks left of the preseason, before hitting the road on Feb. 11 to take on No. 3 North Carolina in the first game of the 2012 regular season. The Gators will be looking to avenge their overtime loss in Raleigh at the start of the 2011 season by earning their first-ever win against the Tar Heels. The opening draw is slated for noon.
For photos from the game, click here.