Caroline Benitez

Junior midfielder Caroline Benitez recorded two goals and an assist against Colorado in Florida's season opener. 

Alligator File Photo

What is the Gators’ secret to staying fresh between games?

According to junior midfielder Caroline Benitez, her ritual is to drink chocolate milk after every contest.

While this may sound unconventional, UF will need all the help it can get as it begins a brutal stretch in which the team will play four games in 11 days over the school’s spring break, including road trips to No. 8 North Carolina and No. 5 Syracuse.

That stretch begins Sunday at noon as the Gators take on Loyola at Dizney Stadium.

Coming off a tough 16-14 loss to No. 1 Maryland, No. 4 Florida (1-1) will look to get back on track against the Greyhounds (0-1). Loyola is unranked in the Inside Lacrosse poll but is ranked No. 23 in the IWLCA poll.

“It’s another opportunity to play a top-ranked team,” Gators coach Amanda O’Leary said. “It’s exciting for us.”

While UF could concern itself with the close loss to Maryland, the team is feeling confident after the defeat. Considering the Terrapins beat Florida 18-8 in 2017, a two-goal loss is a marked improvement.

“It shows we can compete,” Benitez said. “I think our confidence is definitely higher after that loss.”

Loyola lost 14-11 to Johns Hopkins in its season opener Wednesday night, but its defensive prowess should provide a challenge for Florida’s scoring attack.

“They’re aggressive on the defensive end and they have a really good goalie,” O’Leary said.

That goalie, junior Kady Glynn, is a member of the preseason All-Patriot League team, and she was third in the league in save percentage at .470 last season. In the Greyhounds’ loss to Johns Hopkins, she had 13 saves.

Additionally, Greyhounds junior defender Kristen Yanchoris, the preseason Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year, will make putting the ball in the net difficult for Florida. A first team All-Patriot League selection last year, she led the team with 34 ground balls (34) and caused 20 turnovers.

However, once again, a UF assistant coach will give the Gators an advantage.

Last week, assistant Nadine Hadnagy coached against her alma mater, Maryland. Now, Florida’s other assistant coach, Taryn VanThof, a Loyola alumnus, will not only be coaching against her former team, but against her own blood.

Her sister, Taylor, is a starting midfielder for the Greyhounds and is excellent in the draw circle, winning eight draw controls in the first game of the season.

“Her play speaks for itself,” O’Leary said.

O’Leary also said that having Taryn on the coaching staff will be beneficial for Florida, as she has shown the Gators primary draw taker, freshman midfielder Shannon Kavanagh, what to expect going up against Taylor.

UF is eager to move on from the Maryland loss, and facing Loyola at home after a week off should provide a good opportunity to do so.

“They’re hungry to get back out on the field,” O’Leary said, “and show that they’re going to come back from this stronger.”

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.