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Monday, August 08, 2022

The first official goal scored in Florida lacrosse history was a mistake.

It will go down in the record books with Sam Farrell’s name at 28:10. The freshman was actually trying to pass to Brittany Dashiell, but an errant toss landed in the back of the net.

“Right when I passed it, I was like, ‘Uh-oh,’ because it was not a very good pass,” Farrell said. “But it went in.”

A “1” showed on the scoreboard, and the standing-room-only crowd of 2,114 roared. I’m guessing few in the stands realized the error Farrell made. I sure didn’t.

That probably happened often during UF’s 16-6 win over Jacksonville on Saturday. The night still proved to be a giant success for the Gators.

The 1,500-seat Donald R. Dizney Stadium filled before the start, leaving fans arriving late to scramble for prime standing positions.  The setting was perfect to ring in the inaugural UF lacrosse match, even if the crowd didn’t understand everything that happened in the matchup of the state’s only Division-I programs. Then again, not knowing might be a good thing.

“They’ll know really when we do play bad or when we play well,” UF coach Amanda O’Leary said with a laugh. “When you’re playing in front of a crowd like we did tonight, I don’t think it mattered whether we played well or we didn’t play well. All that mattered was they got behind us.”

Saturday marked the culmination of a multi-year process. O’Leary took the Florida job in June 2007, long before there was a lacrosse facility to see. I wanted to see what this new sport was all about. I learned watching a new sport is similar to traveling someplace you’ve never been before.

Everything is unfamiliar.

The sometimes slow-to-develop attacks reminded me of soccer. The attacker behind the net (Florida freshman Ashley Bruns for most of the night) has the responsibility of deciding to pass or shoot, much like a point guard.

But lacrosse is also unlike any other sport. Fouls earn the offensive player a small head start when the match resumes. The continuation of play never requires a pass. Shots usually end up in the back of the net or miss entirely — seven saves on 48 shots Saturday.

The game can bog down at times. There were two scoring droughts of almost seven minutes, which wouldn’t be so bad except attacking turned into holding the ball and unproductive running.

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I’m told the men’s version allows more contact, and while the fouls didn’t annoy me most of the night (43 in the game), there was one Jacksonville possession where the same player was fouled three times, each coming a few yards (and seconds) after the other. That will wear on you.

The best reason to check out lacrosse is the talent on the field. Florida plays in the top conference, including five-time defending champ Northwestern, and while the Gators may struggle initially due to youth, I believe they will be competitive soon. (Heck, they received votes in the Inside Lacrosse preseason poll, and they had never played a match.)

UF has the talent, the facility and the community support. Do yourself a favor, and make it out to one of the eight remaining home matches.

It won’t be a mistake.

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