(from a Florida release)
ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida defeated Central Florida on Saturday, 11-10 in an SELC Southeast divisional match-up, which will undoubtedly have conference tournament implications.
This back-and-forth thriller that came down to the final minute, but a late strike by Florida gave the Gators their fourth consecutive victory over the Knights.
Central Florida struck first, taking an early 1-0 lead. Junior attackman Zach Salazar answered back quickly with a goal of his own to knot the game at one apiece. UCF responded with a goal to take back the lead 2-1 and it appeared the Knights would take the advantage into the second stanza.
However, with under ten seconds remaining in the quarter, sophomore defenseman Noah Boldt carried the ball just over the midfield line and sent a pass towards the crease, ultimately finding the stick of senior attackman Hank Champagne, who beat the buzzer to tie the game at two.
Florida had all of the momentum after that play heading into the second quarter, but it was UCF who ultimately outscored the Gators by one to take a 6-5 lead into the half.
After exchanging goals in the third quarter, UCF held on to its one goal lead, 8-7, heading into the fourth quarter. During the break, Florida coach Garrett Hanrahan spoke with his offense and made it clear what needed to be done. He told the offense to get in an open set and then addressed his best dodgers directly, telling them that if there was ever a time to step up and make a play, this was it.
“As a coach, you spend a lot of time focusing on team offense; schemes that involve all six guys with great off-ball play and ball movement,” said Hanrahan. “But sometimes, you have to look at what’s happening on the field and realize that it just isn’t working that day.
"I don’t know if it was the heat, the fact that we were missing some guys or if a good UCF team was just out-playing us straight up, but three quarters into that game we were still in search of answers offensively. On those days, you need guys who aren’t afraid to take the ball in big moments and tell their teammates to get out of the way, and we were lucky to have a few of those players Saturday.”
First to answer the call was senior FOGO Aaron Silcott, who won the draw to start the quarter and tied the game himself on a great individual effort. Sophomore midfielder Nick Rizzo, who already had two goals heading into the final stanza, was next to step up to the plate, painting the top right corner on an extra man opportunity off an assist from fellow line mate Rob Peeters. Later in the frame, Rizzo added a fourth tally on an isolation dodge to give the Gators a 10-8 lead.
After the Knights rallied to tie the game at 10 with less than three minutes remaining, it was Peeters’ turn to make his mark.
Florida identified a mismatch on their next possession and cleared out for Peeters, who attacked the left alley. With his shooting angle shrinking after good initial defense, Peeters got underneath his defenseman, brought his stick across his body, and scored on a backhanded shot to give the Gators an 11-10 lead with just 54 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing face-off, UCF committed a penalty, giving the Gators the ball and a man advantage. Florida played keep away for the final 45 seconds of the game and came away with the 11-10 win.
Florida now turns its focus to a third Southeast division tilt on the road against Miami. A win will punch the Gators’ ticket to Atlanta for the SELC Tournament.