In the sweltering heat of Gainesville, No. 3 Florida thoroughly outclassed No. 1 Northwestern in Saturday's American Lacrosse Conference championship game, beating the Wildcats on offense, on defense, in the draw circle, and, of course, on the scoreboard, 14-7.
The Gators (16-2) become the first team other than the Wildcats (17-2) to capture an ALC tournament title. Northwestern had won five straight since the tournament was instituted in 2006. Freshman Shannon Gilroy was the star of the game for Florida, with seven goals, while goalkeeper Mikey Meager had seven huge saves.
Now, the Wildcats await Sunday night's selection show to find out their placement in the NCAA tournament. Even with the loss, NU should in all likelihood be a top-4 seed in the tournament, which would ensure hosting games in the first two rounds.
As for Florida, it could be a tough call for the selection committee to choose between the Gators and Syracuse for the No. 1 seed, assuming the Orange take care of business later today against Loyola in the Big East championship. The Orange are ranked No. 2, and they own a double-OT win against Florida earlier this season. But Florida's resume includes two big wins against No. 1 NU, while Syracuse lost to NU in OT. [UPDATE: Scratch that, Syracuse was upset by No. 11 Loyola in the Big East championship final. So, count on Florida being the 1-seed in the NCAA tournament. NU has a very good chance of being the 2-seed. Syracuse and Maryland will probably be the 3 and 4 seeds, not necessarily in that order, with North Carolina having a chance to squeeze into the top 4.]
In the ALC championship game, Florida dominated NU in the first half, taking a 7-3 lead into the break, with the Gators defense effectively shutting down the Wildcats offense. All of NU's first half goals came on free position shots.
However, Northwestern has had a knack for second-half comebacks this season, and for a while, the Wildcats looked like they might break out of their funk. The Wildcats cut Florida's lead to three a couple of times, but each time, the Gators would respond. Then with about 20 minutes left, Northwestern proceeded to fall apart, committing turnovers on five straight possessions, and the Gators would make them pay, breaking open a 12-6 lead and never looking back.
Florida had 26 shots in the game, to NU's 19, and draw controls were an astounding 18-5 in favor of Florida.