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Florida's Danielle Pavinelli

Second-Half Surge Lifts Florida in Key AAC Rivalry Game

April 13, 2024
Jackson Reyes
Scott McCall

GAINESVILLE, F.L. — In a rematch of last year’s AAC championship game, No. 13 James Madison led No. 15 Florida by one goal midway through the third quarter.

The Dukes’ slim lead lasted just three minutes after Florida’s Paisley Egan found a cutting Sarah Falk. Falk shot it just above the head Dukes goalie Caitlin Boden, as Florida tied the score at 6 with 9:18 left in the period.

Falk’s goal started an explosion on offense for Florida. The Gators were relentless from free positions and in front of goal, scoring seven straight goals to turn a once back-and-forth game into a big lead.

Florida scored 10 of the final 11 goals to take down the Dukes 15-7 and move to 13-2 (4-0 AAC). After the loss, JMU fell to 10-4 (3-1 AAC).

“It’s an amazing win; JMU is a phenomenal program,” Florida head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “When you beat a program like that, you got to feel good about what you did, but credit all the players. They came out, worked their tails off, and played hard.”

Gators goalie Elyse Finnelle made 12 saves. Six different Gators scored two goals, and Danielle Pavinelli paced the Gators with five points on two goals and three assists. The Gators assisted nine of their 15 goals.

“We saw that they were in a zone,” Pavinelli said. “We tried to attack that opposite end with the 3-v-2. Ashley [Gonzalez] and Gianna [Monaco] were able to hit me with that when that defender went through, and I was just open on that corner a couple of times.”

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The Gators didn’t take long to get on the scoreboard. Pavinelli was set up by Gonzalez in front of the goal and buried a shot into the net with 12:37 left in the first.

Just 15 seconds later, James Madison pushed the pace, and Katelyn Morgan found Isabella Peterson for the tying goal.

Florida went back in front with 4:05 left in the first. After a shot, the ball flew past the right side of the net and was recovered by Maggi Hall. Hall found space on the right side of the goal and found Josie Hahn in front, who launched it into the back of the net.

James Madison managed five shots on goal, but Florida made the most of its two shots on goal and led 2-1 at the end of the first.

After going more than 15 minutes without scoring, the Dukes drew a free position attempt at the 11:33 mark. Peterson took a shot from the eight-meter arc and fired it past Finnelle to tie the score at 2.

Peterson’s goal was the first of three scored in the span of a 75 seconds, and the sides were tied at 3 midway through the second.

Late in the second quarter, Pavinelli got the ball from the right side of the goal. She rocketed a shot from the crease, hitting the back of the net to put Florida up 4-3 with 2:23 left.

Epke responded by finding space in the middle and an opening in the bottom right. Her low shot flew right into the bottom corner of the goal, tying it at 4.

Florida opened the second half with a counterattack in the first minute. Hannah Heller sprinted down the field and found Hall on the right side. She made a quick turn and scored to put the Gators up 5-4.

The lead didn’t last long, as the Dukes scored two quick goals in succession to take their first lead of the game. JMU went up 6-5 after Peterson spun around a defender, and as she fell to the ground, flicked a shot on goal that made it past the goalie.

The Gators tied the game at 6 after a goal from Falk.

Florida scored four goals from free positions, as the Gators went on a seven-goal scoring run to go up 13-6 midway through the fourth.

“Our transition was, I think, a difference maker. We started to be able to push a little bit more through the midfield,” O’Leary said.

The Gators’ lead swelled to seven before Peterson scored to stop the bleeding for JMU.

“We got a lot of our free positions just off of those fast breaks,” Pavinelli said. “We knew to push it. Their defense wasn't getting back in time, so we kind of saw those openings. And that was giving us shooting space.”

The Gators have now extended their winning streak to 13 after losing the first two games of the spring.