GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Despite jumping out to an early lead, the Lehigh women’s lacrosse team fell victim to a strong second-half surge in dropping a 15-10 final to No. 14 Florida on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon in the Sunshine State. The Mountain Hawks (2-2) took a 6-5 lead only 28 seconds into the second half, but the Gators (4-1) responded with nine of the next 11 goals to break the game open.
Senior Lauren Dykstra and sophomore Megan Kelly each posted a hat trick for Lehigh. Dykstra also added an assist to up her season point total to 19 behind 16 goals and three assists. Her 39th career hat trick moved her over the 200-career plateau as she now has 201. All three of Kelly’s goals came in the first half, including the game’s first two markers. Overall, it marked the sophomore’s fifth career hat trick.
“We’re really proud of this team,” said Lehigh head coach Jill Redfern. “They came out and fought exceptionally hard against one of the nation’s top programs.
“We had some execution problems in the second half which hurt us a little bit, but all in all, it’s big step forward [for our program],” she continued. “This will help us get better. We’re looking forward to rest of schedule; being able to play this type of competition well is exciting.”
Senior Allison Thomas added a pair of goals while junior Lauren Murray and sophomore Anna Patterson each added one. Freshman Alexandra Fitzpatrick made three saves in the first 31:51 before being relieved by sophomore MaryLeah DiNisco, who stopped six over the final 28:09.
The Mountain Hawks impressed on draw controls in the first half, holding a 6-5 lead over a potent Florida squad which had won 59 of 98 coming. The Gators began to take control in the second, but Lehigh still stood within 15-12 at the final whistle.
Lehigh made an early statement as two goals from Kelly gave the Mountain Hawks the quick 2-0 advantage less than a minute into the game. Her first came at 29:35, while Dykstra won the next draw control to lead to Kelly’s second at 29:10.
Florida answered at 28:13, but a free position goal from Thomas put the Mountain Hawks back up by two at 23:31. The Gators responded with the next two to pull even, but Dykstra broke a 16:31 scoreless drought with a free position goal to give Lehigh a 4-3 lead. She made a nice move across the crease, beating Florida goalkeeper Mikey Meagher high with 7:00 on the first-half clock.
The Gators again answered, but Kelly scored her third goal of the game off a nifty pass from Dykstra to put Lehigh back on top, 5-4, at 2:27. However, Florida’s Brittany Dashiell evened the score with only 36 seconds remaining in the half, making it 5-5 after 30 minutes of play.
The Mountain Hawks again pulled back ahead at the beginning of the second as sophomore Julie McBrien won the draw control, leading into Murray’s first goal of the season only 28 seconds into the half. The Gators responded with two goals in the span of 30 seconds to go ahead, 7-6 at 28:09, but the scoring outburst continued.
Dykstra netted her second of the game behind a free position opportunity to force the game’s fifth tie. She had an initial opportunity which just went wide, but was fouled again. The Tewaaraton candidate wouldn’t miss on the second, however, pulling Lehigh even with 27:03 to go in the second.
As they had all game, the Gators stormed right back, scoring seven of the next eight goals over the next 23:28 before the Mountain Hawks answered with two of the final three tallies - from Dykstra and Patterson - good for the 15-10 final.
Florida led the final shot count, 33-23, while scooping 15 ground balls to the Mountain Hawks’ nine. Lehigh was 3-of-8 on free position shots while the Gators were 3-of-10.
The Mountain Hawks return home on Wednesday to face Siena at 3:30 pm. Lehigh will begin league play next Saturday (Mar. 12) against Colgate, also at the Ulrich Sports Complex. Gametime is set for 1 p.m.