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Saturday, January 28, 2023

So far this season for the No. 10 Gators, home is where the wins have been.

Behind a frenzied attack that has simply outrun its opponents and a stingy defense that has allowed only 7.2 goals per game at home, Florida (7-1) has jumped out to a perfect 6-0 start at Dizney Stadium. 

But, five of those six wins have come against teams with losing records. Denver, Lehigh, Georgetown, Temple and Colgate are a combined 9-21.

The Gators will host another squad  sporting a poor record Saturday at 1 p.m., but this time, the visitors don’t look to be pushovers.

“Syracuse is a whole new ballpark,” sophomore Brittany Dashiell said. “They’re a very good team. We just need to come out prepared and make sure that we are on our best level because they are definitely one of the better teams we face this season.”

The No. 11 Orange (2-3) head into Gainesville off a brutal schedule that saw them endure three consecutive losses to top-15 teams, including a 7-5 defeat at the hands of No. 1 Maryland. Syracuse’s defense has been the only unit all season that has held the defending NCAA champion Terrapins to fewer than 10 goals.

While Syracuse’s defense has been strong this season, its offense has received the accolades. Both of the Orange’s top attackers, senior Tee Ladouceur and sophomore Michelle Tumolo, are  on the Tewaaraton watch list for National Player of the Year.

“They have really good sticks, but I feel like just staying composed, finishing our shots and making sure we stay on the same page, like we have been, will really make us successful,” sophomore Janine Hillier said.

UF coach Amanda O’Leary warned of the visitors’ speed all week and predicted they will be the first team to match up with her team's athleticism since No. 3 North Carolina, which beat the Gators.

Florida’s offense, led by sophomore Kitty Cullen who is also on the POY watch list, looks to be expanding at just the right time though. The attacker tops the nation with 36 goals and has led the Gators in scoring each game this season until Tuesday’s win over Colgate when Dashiell put in five. The midfielder has scored 10 of her 20 goals over the last three games and has emerged as a valuable second option in the offense.

“It says a lot about this team again the confidence level that if you’re having a bad day, your teammate’s going to be there to pick up the pieces,” UF coach Amanda O’Leary said. “It’s critical on such a young team that we do have people stepping up each and every game.”

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