Boswell celebrates

Senior midfielder Lily Boswell and her teammates celebrate after a goal in the Dukes' win over Ohio State on March 4. JMU most recently defeated No. 8 Florida in their first conference match of the season, 14-9, on Saturday. 

In JMU’s first-ever AAC game and one of the most anticipated matchups of the year, No. 7 JMU faced No. 8 Florida in a midseason contest already with NCAA Tournament implications. While it went back and forth early and while the Gators led for chunks, JMU pulled away in the end to win its eighth straight game, 14-9.

“Florida was known as the gritty team in the American [AAC] and we were known as the gritty team in the CAA,” redshirt junior attacker Isabella Peterson said, “so we wanted to show them what JMU grit is all about.” 

Both teams flexed their grit throughout as 66 fouls were called — 36 committed by Florida and 30 by JMU. The Gators held an advantage with nine free-position shots, converting on four of them, compared to the Dukes’ four attempts that they capitalized on three of. 

JMU was called for 12 fouls in the first quarter with four of them resulting in free-position shots for Florida. However, JMU was only called for two penalties in the fourth quarter, opening the game for it to seal its victory. The Dukes were 116th of 117 Division I women’s lacrosse teams in penalties last season, head coach Shelley Klaes said, but they’ve learned how to respond to them in 2023. 

“We weren't being resilient and we were getting caught up in the dramatics of the game,” Klaes said about 2022. “But now, we're able to just let it go and focus on the next play.”  

Florida All-AAC goalkeeper junior Sarah Reznick stole most of the show early with three saves in the first quarter. The nation's leading goal-scorer Isabella Peterson was defended well early on and only registered one shot in the first quarter. 

Florida sophomore attacker Emma LoPinto, the Gators’ leading scorer coming into Saturday, scored twice, with one goal off a free-position shot and the other on a man-up situation. Still, the Dukes remained within one goal by the end of the first quarter, down 3-2, with goals from redshirt senior midfielder Lizzy Fox and freshman midfielder Brianna Mennela.

The fouls started to pile up on Florida early in the second leading to a man-up chance for JMU. Dukes’ sophomore attacker Olivia Mattis capitalized on the opportunity, giving the Dukes a 4-3 lead. JMU didn’t hold onto the lead for long, though, as Florida mounted a 3-0 run, scoring all of those goals within three minutes starting at the 9:00 mark. 

“They were physical, but we’re just as physical,” senior captain Rachel Matey said. “When the refs are calling the game the way they were calling, you have to sometimes reel back in that physicality, and I think that's one thing we did a little bit better than they did.” 

Peterson scored her first goal of the game, and 37th of the season, at the 4:05 mark to sprout a 4-0 JMU run of its own to level the score at 7-7 by the end of the first half.

The focus of the game in the third quarter was in the middle of the field, as Florida managed to win every draw control (6-0), but the Dukes edged the Gators in the ground ball battle (8-3). The ground balls proved to be important, as JMU grabbed the lead, 10-9, entering the last quarter.

Both teams were held scoreless in the fourth quarter for nearly nine minutes until a goal by sophomore midfielder Savannah Derey off a Peterson assist at the 6:03 mark broke the silence. 

“We thought that was a key moment in the game,” Klaes said of Derey’s goal. “To see someone like Savannah come off the bench and open up to the ball after Bella attracts, it's gonna be small, fundamental plays [like that] that win us this game.” 

A recurring theme for the Dukes this season is taking control of the game in the final stretch. Entering this game, they had a goal differential of +19 in the fourth quarter and they built on that Saturday by holding the Gators scoreless and scoring four goals of their own, all by different players. 

JMU ran away with the game, outscoring Florida 4-0 in the final frame to clinch its first-ever AAC win. 

JMU had eight different goal-scorers, but Isabella Peterson and Lizzy Fox led the way with three goals each, and “x” attackers Maddie Epke and Katelyn Morgan both distributed 4 assists. Emma LoPinto led Florida with four goals, all of which were in the first half. 

“We weren't going to harp on one player, and [LoPinto] did score a decent amount of goals, but we adjusted and made them score in different ways,” Matey said.

Next up for Dukes is familiar foe U.Va. (7-2), which they’ll face at Sentara Park on Wednesday at 5 p.m. 

Contact Hayden Huntley at For more lacrosse coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.