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Monday, May 27, 2024

Less than five minutes after the start of Florida’s inaugural game against Jacksonville, spectators were turned away at the gate of Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

At 6:20 p.m., university officials closed the gates. The 1,500-seat stadium couldn’t take any more fans.

The 2,114 on hand were rewarded with a 16-6 victory for the Gators.

“That type of crowd and the enthusiasm they showed was just second to none,” UF coach Amanda O’Leary said. “For our players to be able to play in front of that kind of home crowd was just an amazing experience for all of them.”

Attacker Ashley Bruns led the Gators with four goals and four assists, and attacker Julie Schindel and midfielder Colby Rhea added three goals each.

Midfielder Rachael Zimmerman scooped up 10 ground balls, while JU collected 15 total.

The crowd stood by as the Gators introduced UF’s newest sport, but the team showed signs of its youth.

UF’s first game had all the fixings of a new program.

The team had spurts where it flourished, runs of sloppy play and perhaps first-game nerves.

The Gators scored three goals in the first six minutes of the match and limited Jacksonville to only two goals in the second half.

The team had 10 turnovers to Jacksonville’s 18. However, UF had a barrage of dropped passes in the first 10 minutes of the game.

During a timeout with 20:55 left in the first half, O’Leary said she told the team it needed to clean up its play.

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“We needed to take a deep breath,” she said. “There was some nervousness amongst the group, but once they took that deep breath and realized that they were OK, that this is going to be something they’re going to have to play in each and every game, it came together at that point.” 

UF later had a scoring drought that lasted more than 11 minutes.

After Schindel scored UF’s seventh goal with 19:48 left in the first half, the Gators went without another goal until 8:06 when attacker Janine Hillier scored.

“When you’re playing in front of a crowd like we did tonight, I don’t think that it mattered whether we played well (or) we didn’t play well,” O’Leary said. “All that mattered was the fact that they got behind us.”

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