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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Fresh off its inaugural season, Florida opened up its fall exhibition season this weekend when it hosted the Gator Invitational at Dizney Stadium.

Last season, UF  finished with a 10-8 record – the fourth-best record for a first-year team in NCAA history – including going 7-2 at home. That home-field advantage carried over into the Gators’ fall season openers against Jacksonville University and Rollins College on Saturday.

Against the Dolphins and Tars, the Gators got started on the right foot to kickoff the exhibition season, a stark contrast to the manner in which Florida closed its inaugural season – a 16-9 loss to Vanderbilt in the American Lacrosse Conference semifinals.

In the first match of the tournament against Jacksonville, both the Gators and the Dolphins scored early before the Gators pulled away, netting 16 unanswered goals en route to a 23-5 victory.

The 16-goal run lasted well into the second half, and spanned the use of two Gators goalkeepers. Sophomores Cara Canington and Mikey Meagher each played one half against the Dolphins and notched 10 saves for the game.

The offensive onslaught by the Gators was anchored by sophomore Ashley Bruns, who netted four goals and also racked up four assists after totaling 48 goals and 31 assists as a freshman.

Three other Gators – junior Caroline Cochran and sophomores Caroline Chesterman and Kitty Cullen – also tied for the team lead with four goals.

It was more of the same for Florida when it faced off against Rollins in the second match of the Gator Invitational. The Gators started the match with six unanswered goals, led by two apiece from Chesterman and fellow sophomore Janine Hillier.

Bruns again led the team with four more goals – upping her total to eight on the day – and helped lead the Gators to a 25-8 victory over the Tars.

Sophomore Colby Rhea also put four balls in the back of the net while Cochran led the team with two assists in the second game of the afternoon.

Canington, who earned the win in goal for the Gators against the Dolphins after making four saves early in the game, was credited with the win against the Tars for her three-save performance.

Florida’s next game is Oct. 17 in Princeton, N.J., for the Princeton Tournament, where it will be joined by North Carolina, Penn and Syracuse, as well as Northwestern, which has made six consecutive trips to the NCAA Championship and won the national title five of the last six years.

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