Vanderbilt lacrosse struggles in difficult matchup against No. 10 Florida, falls 16-8

Facing their third ranked opponent of the season, the Commodores lost to the Florida Gators on Saturday.

Vanderbilt+lacrosse+huddles+during+their+loss+to+No.+10+Florida+on+April+16%2C+2022.

Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt lacrosse huddles during their loss to No. 10 Florida on April 16, 2022. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Anish Mago, Staff Writer

Following their first AAC victory of the season over Eastern Carolina, Vanderbilt (8-6, 1-2) fell to No. 10 Florida (10-4, 3-0) on Saturday afternoon, 16-8. After a quick start from the Commodores, Florida scored seven goals in the second period to take control of the game. After receiving votes this week to enter the Top 25, Vanderbilt’s performance on Saturday proved to be a step back as the Commodores continue looking for consistency. 

“I thought that we started out really great, but what killed us was giving them extra opportunities and possessions,” head coach Beth Hewitt said. “We just played so much defense that, at some point, a team that good is going to find the holes.”

Vanderbilt began the game on the offensive in the opening minutes, maintaining consistent pressure in Florida’s 12-meter fan and forcing Gators’ goalie Sarah Reznick into a few difficult saves. The Commodores’ relentless pressure resulted in a free-position shot for Maddy Souza, which was again saved by Reznick. Florida was quick to counter, and with a couple passes around the arc was able to find freshman Emma LoPinto, who converted from close range to claim the lead, 1-0, midway through the first quarter. 

The Commodores seemed to take the goal as a wake-up call, as they upped their pressure in the midfield and were able to control more possession as the first quarter went on. This resulted in two quick goals for the Commodores, one from a well-placed shot from Callie Sundin and one from a free-position shot conversion from Souza. 

The Gatos responded with a few quick counter-attacks, one which resulted in a free-position shot, but were unable to convert as the Commodores swarming defense stifled the attacks. The Commodores next goal came from midfielder Kayla Rieu, her eighth of the season, which gave the Commodores a 3-1 lead heading into the second quarter. Both teams had seven shots in the first period, but it was efficiency from the Commodores which gave them the lead.

Florida claimed the first goal of the second period, with a free-position shot conversion from Maggi Hall to cut the Commodores’ lead to one. The Gators controlled the early minutes of the second period, holding possession in the Commodores’ third and creating scoring opportunities. Florida scored three goals within two minutes to claim a 5-3 lead, prompting Hewitt to call her first timeout. 

Unfortunately for the Commodores, the momentum did not shift following the short timeout. The Commodores were unable to break the Florida press and escape into the midfield, as the Gators continued to pile on shots, scoring another goal in the minute after the timeout. With five minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Gators had racked up 21 shots, but only had scored five goals—a testament to Commodores’ keeper Paige Gunning’s excellent performance in the first half. 

As the first half concluded, the Gators took advantage of their opportunities and added two more goals to extend their lead to five, heading into the halftime break up 8-3 on the Commodores. 

“I think the second quarter was really when they started to get those extra possessions, many off of draw controls,” Hewitt said. “We had been finding some holes with the extra space in their defense, so they made a good adjustment there. I also thought that their shooters just really turned it on in the second quarter after missing the cage a few times in the first quarter.”

The second half began with both sides trading shots and sharing possession evenly, with the Commodores creating a few chances inside the Gators’ arc. The Gators responded to the pressure well, and were able to convert on two chances of their own to extend their lead to seven, 10-3. Vanderbilt continued to create chances of their own, but was unable to get quality looks with Florida’s big interior defenders quickly closing down on their forwards. LoPinto scored her fifth and sixth goals of the game to extend the Gators’ lead to 12-3. 

The Commodores broke their two-period scoring drought with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, as sophomore Ella Smith tucked a free-position shot into the bottom right corner to cut the Gators lead to eight. Unfortunately for the Commodores, the Gators scored again before the third quarter whistle to claim a 13-4 lead heading into the final period. 

Vanderbilt made a few changes heading into the fourth quarter, and the fresh legs seemed to up the tempo in the early minutes of the last period. Senior Bri Gross scored her 26th goal of the season via a smooth solo run through the middle of the Florida defensive line. The Commodores did well to orchestrate attacking movements, including a great look following a cut by Gabby Fornia, but were unable to convert their chances. Florida responded by scoring three goals on counter-attacks to push their lead to 11, 16-5. 

With time winding down, Vanderbilt added three final tallies, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Florida held on to a 16-8 victory. 

“We’ll be great. We recognized that there are some places to improve, but overall, I really believe in this group and how we’ll respond,” Hewitt said. 

The Commodores will play their first of their two final regular season games on April 23 against Old Dominion.