Trailing Maryland 11-9 early in the second half, UF attacker Shayna Pirreca charged the goal and hurled in a shot to narrow the Terrapins’ lead to one.

At least, so it appeared.

The officials checked Pirreca’s stick, and upon inspection, it was ruled illegal and the goal was revoked.

Gators’ coach Amanda O’Leary said the stick was illegal due to its pocket being too deep.

The goal reversal resulted in a complete momentum swing for Maryland, as it subsequently scored five unanswered goals, eventually pulling away in a 16-14 victory.

For No. 3 Florida (1-1), it’s the first loss on a season that has begun with high expectations. While UF went toe-to-toe with the No. 1 Terrapins (2-0), Maryland’s dynamic offense was too much to overcome for a Gators defense that allowed only nine goals in their season opener against Colorado last weekend.

Still, O’Leary felt that the way her team performed in the loss was a positive sign.

“To be within two goals of this team was fantastic,” she said, “despite the mistakes that we made.”

The Gators came out of the gate strong, with junior midfielder Sydney Pirreca scoring 12 seconds into the game. Pirreca’s goal was followed by a goal from freshman midfielder Shannon Kavanagh to put Florida up 2-0.

Maryland later came back to take the lead, but the Gators kept it close in the first half, trailing 10-8 heading into the break.

After the Terrapins’ 5-0 run following the goal reversal, the Gators scored five unanswered goals of their own, but ultimately couldn’t finish off the comeback.

Florida won in the draw circle 19-14, but in a game where officials weren’t hesitant to blow the whistle, free-position goals proved to be the difference. Maryland scored seven goals out of the free position compared to UF’s three.

““The referees, they’re going to come and go,” O’Leary said. “We need to be better about executing the details.”

Gators’ goalkeeper Haley Hicklen performed well once again, tying her career-high from last week with 14 saves, but Maryland’s offensive quickness allowed it to get off 34 shots against Hicklen.

Despite defensive deficiencies, it was a great day for the Pirreca sisters, as they combined for 11 of UF’s 14 goals. Sydney Pirreca scored eight times, while Shayna scored three.

Junior attacker Lindsey Ronbeck also added three goals in the loss.

Although it wasn’t the result the Gators were looking for, there were positive takeaways from the loss. Last year’s loss to the Terrapins was a blowout, as the Gators fell 18-8 in that game. With another tough opponent in Loyola coming to town next Sunday, Florida can’t dwell on what could have been in its close loss to Maryland.

Instead, Sydney Pirreca said the team is focusing on how tough it played on Saturday.

“It was a great fight,” she said. “It makes me very excited.”

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