A defensively dominant second half ensured a win for the No. 2 Florida lacrosse team Monday night — this time against No. 15 Towson.
Led by a first-half hat trick by sophomore midfielder Shayna Pirreca, the Gators (9-0) jumped out to a 9-6 lead over the Tigers (6-1) heading into halftime at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. The first half included 4-0 scoring runs by both UF and Towson, with Florida’s unanswered goal streak serving as the evening’s first goals.
The Gators’ offense produced seven goals in the second half, including two by redshirt senior midfielder Nicole Graziano, to take a 15-7 victory, their sixth win in as many games this season against ranked opponents.
“It says a lot about our defense that we were able to maintain the lead and put away a few goals,” Graziano said in a video posted to FloridaGators.com.
Graziano strung out an all-around performance against the Tigers, leading the team with four goals and five caused turnovers, while also gathering a team-high-tying four draw controls.
“I think her presence on the field at all times is critical for us,” coach Amanda O’Leary said of Graziano in a video posted to FloridaGators.com. “She is not only a leader. … She handles the momentum shifts, never gets down, kinda just fights back if she makes mistakes so it’s really important for her to be on the field.”
Junior attacker Sammi Burgess added a hat trick along with two assists and two ground ball pickups.
With their performances, Burgess (19 goals) and Graziano (18 goals) now lead the Gators in scoring, as they surpassed Mollie Stevens (17 goals), who sat out due to a red card she received on Friday.
Stevens has played seven games for UF in 2016, while both Burgess and Graziano have played in nine game this season.
In what should be the most anticipated matchup in NCAA lacrosse thus far into the season, Florida will take on No. 1 Maryland on Saturday at noon at Dizney Stadium. The Terrapins (5-0), who have been the top-ranked team this season, are coming off a 14-9 win against No. 3 Syracuse, a team that took the Gators into overtime on March 1 before eventually losing 11-10 on a game-winning goal by Stevens.
In the only matchup between UF and Maryland, the then-No. 5 Gators lost to the then-top-ranked Terps 16-6 on March 14 of last year.
O’Leary hopes that her team can cut down on the unforced turnovers that have plagued Florida all year — against Towson, just three of the 12 UF turnovers were caused by a Tiger player.
Against Maryland, a turnover line such as that from Monday night could end the Gators’ undefeated season.
“That’s kinda a huge thing for us right now,” O’Leary said.