Shayna Pirreca

Senior attacker Shayna Pirreca and her upperclassman teammates will attempt to lead a young Gators squad over No. 1 Maryland on Saturday. 

Alligator File Photo

Since its inception, Florida lacrosse has played Maryland three times. It has lost every one.

UF coach Amanda O’Leary knows that her team will have its hands full going up against the top-ranked Terrapins at noon on Saturday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

“Maryland is outstanding,” she said. “They have really great offensive players and solid defenders.”

The matchup is a meaningful one for a litany of reasons. For the No. 3 Gators (1-0), it’s a game that hits close to home, as over 60 percent of their roster hails from the state of Maryland. Florida’s players will go head-to-head against old friends and teammates.

The No. 1 Terrapins (1-0) have been a powerhouse in women’s lacrosse over the last decade, winning four national titles since 2010. They have also made eight consecutive NCAA Final Four appearances.

In its season opener, Maryland smothered William and Mary in an 18-7 victory. The Terps led 15-2 at the half, and 10 players got on the scoreboard. Attackers Megan Whittle and Caroline Steele led the way with four goals each.
However, Florida has a secret weapon of sorts.

Gators assistant coach Nadine Hadnagy was the IWLCA National Defender of the Year and a Tewaaraton Award Finalist with Maryland in 2017, but on Saturday, she will be coaching against her alma mater and many of her former teammates.

“She knows the ins-and-outs of their offense,” sophomore defender Cara Trombetta said. “She’s giving us insight on what to expect.”

In its 16-9 victory against Colorado on Sunday, Florida played six freshmen. That experience against a ranked team should prove valuable, as UF will rely heavily on their contributions to get past a Maryland team that has only lost 4 regular-season games in its previous five seasons.

One of those freshmen, defender Sabrina Cristodero, stood out in the season opener for her defensive efforts guarding Colorado’s Miranda Stinson, holding the dynamic scorer to only one goal in the win.

Her performance was impressive enough to earn exteded playing time Saturday against the Terps.

“We’re going to ask a little bit more of (Cristodero) on the offensive end because of her quickness,” O’Leary said. “She’ll play on both sides of the field quite a bit.”

While many of Florida’s leaders, such as attackers Lindsey Ronbeck and Shayna Pirreca, midfielder Sydney Pirreca and defender Aniya Flanagan, have experience going up against elite teams, this will be a first for the freshmen. But O’Leary believes they are ready for the test that Maryland will present.

“This is going to be a challenge for them,” she said. “but one that I feel they can certainly step up and play the part.”

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.