Brianna Harris

Sophomore midfielder Brianna Harris (20) has a twin sister who plays for the Gators' next opponent, Navy. Harris will not play in the game due to a season-ending ACL injury suffered earlier in the year. 

Alligator File Photo

After beginning its two-game road trip with a bang, upsetting North Carolina 17-10 on March 3, the Florida lacrosse team finished with a thud, falling at Syracuse 17-15 on Wednesday.

UF has had six days to move past that tough loss and will take on No. 10 Navy this afternoon at 1:15 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

It was a much-needed break for the No. 6 Gators (4-2). The loss to Syracuse completed a grueling stretch in which the team played four games in 11 days.

However, Navy (5-1) should provide another difficult test for Florida. The Midshipmen’s only loss on the year was a 20-14 road defeat at the hands of No. 2 Boston College on Feb. 27.

“It is an honor to host one of our service academies,” Gators coach Amanda O’Leary said in a release. “Navy is an experienced and talented team that knows what it takes to win.”

O’Leary isn’t wrong.

Last postseason, the Midshipmen upset defending national champion North Carolina 16-14 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament, earning an NCAA Final Four berth for the first time in program history. Navy coach Cindy Timchal is also all-time NCAA wins leader with 496 victories in her 36 years of coaching.

Florida will have its hands full defending senior midfielder Jenna Collins. She leads Navy in scoring, tallying 24 goals through six games. Her four goals per game average is tied for the 12th best in the nation. Collins also has 37 draw controls on the year and is a staggering 14 of 18 on free-position attempts.

Her twin sister, Julia, is third on the team in scoring with 16 goals so far this season.

UF knows that it is likely in for an offensive battle. The Gators boast the No. 8 scoring offense in the country, and Navy ranks just one spot below at No. 9.

Navy has been dominant in the draw control circle so far this season as well, and its 18 draw controls per game is second-best in the nation.

But despite their 5-1 record, the Midshipmen have yet to earn a marquee win this season, as all five of their wins have come against teams not ranked in the Cascade Media Poll’s top 20. Playing the Gators on the road will provide another opportunity for Navy to take down a ranked opponent.

With so much of UF’s roster hailing from the state of Maryland, it is no surprise that the team has connections with other schools in that state. Assistant coaches Nadine Hadnagy and Taryn VanThof coached against their alma maters of Maryland and Loyola, respectively, earlier this season. Navy will be no different, as Florida sophomore midfielder Brianna Harris’ identical twin sister, Kayla, plays for the Midshipmen.

Brianna will not compete in the game after suffering a season-ending ACL injury on the first day of practice prior to the season. However, Kayla is a starter for Navy and has nine goals this year.

O’Leary said that after the loss at Syracuse, the team is ready for a fresh start at home against the Midshipmen, the Gators last game before they begin conference play. She said that the team has had several productive practices this week and is hoping that it will carry over into a victory this afternoon.

“I think the team is eager to get back on the field,” she said.

Follow Tyler Nettuno on Twitter @TylerNettuno and contact him at [email protected].

Tyler Nettuno is a sports writer for the Alligator and covers the University of Florida lacrosse team. He has previously covered UF men's and women's golf. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2017.