Stevens helps UF lacrosse top No. 3 Southern Cal

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Matt Stamey/Correspondent
Published: Friday, February 24, 2017 at 10:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 24, 2017 at 10:51 p.m.

Gators senior midfielder Mollie Stevens was not about to let another match-up with a perennial power slip away.

With Florida holding a narrow 4-2 lead near the halftime break against Southern California, Stevens willed her way through the Trojans defense, looking for any opportunity to increase the gap.

By the midway point, Stevens had turned in a hat trick and the No. 4 Gators lacrosse team was well on its way to a 15-10 win over No. 3 USC on Friday night at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

“We had a chip on our shoulder,” said Stevens, who tied her career-high with five goals. “We knew we had to come out here and give it our all.”

Caught in a physical battle — USC had six yellow cards to Florida's four — the Gators (1-1) struggled to win draw controls despite devoting considerable time in practice to the aspect following a season-opening 13-10 loss to North Carolina in which UF won just eight draw controls to the Tar Heels' 17.

“Each game is going to be physical, especially when you're playing a team like this,” Stevens said. “You just have to go along with it and adapt to it, because the refs, they're not going to call everything. We got away with a lot, they got away with a lot.”

The Trojans (2-1) would finish with 17 draw controls, compared to 10 for the Gators, but UF coach Amanda O'Leary took solace in her team competing aggressively with one of the nation's best in the center circle.

“(UNC's) Kayla Michaels is one of the best draw specialists in the country, and I thought we did spectacular against her,” O'Leary said. “I thought Mollie (Stevens) really came through for us. We had a couple of miscues but overall I couldn't be more proud of her efforts.”

UF freshman midfielder Brianna Harris earned her first start, and she made sure not to disappoint. The Arnold, Maryland, native opened the scoring in the second half with a shot from close range.

The Trojans had Florida on its heels midway through the second half. Four consecutive goals brought USC to within 8-7 before a goal from UF junior midfielder Allie Pavinelli started a decisive four-goal run for the Gators. Shayna and Sydney Pirreca each added a pair of goals for Florida, while senior attacker Sammi Burgess contributed two goals and an assist. Gators sophomore goalkeeper Haley Hicklen had 13 saves on 24 shots from the Trojans.

“Haley is, in my opinion, one of the best goalies in the country and I think she showed that tonight,” O'Leary said. “She had multiple saves, she handles the ball under pressure, so I thought she played fantastic.”

The Gators have the weekend off before a road contest against Jacksonville University (0-2) on Monday at 7 p.m.

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