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Saturday, April 01, 2023

With two weeks off before their last regular-season game, the Gators are using the extra practice time to go back to the drawing board.

Sunday’s one-goal win at Vanderbilt marked the third consecutive game No. 3 Florida struggled with its faceoffs, winning just 26 of its last 69.

“We’re definitely going to revisit the draw controls and see what changes we can make,” sophomore Caroline Chesterman said. “The people who take the draw will try out different techniques, and we just talked, in general, about going stronger after each draw so we can take control of the game.”

Through the first 12 games of the season, Florida (14-1, 5-0 American Lacrosse Conference) only lost the draw control battle twice — by three against Temple (a win) and North Carolina (a loss). The Gators were also ranked in the top 10 in faceoffs won with 14.75 per game.

Since April 9 against No. 18 Johns Hopkins, their average has dipped to a paltry 8.66 draws won per game.

“It’s again back to the fundamentals. … We lost the draw control against Vanderbilt,” UF coach Amanda O’Leary said. “They obviously have a very good player who takes the draw in Ally Carey; she’s a draw specialist, and she did a fantastic job.”

Carey won four draws for Vanderbilt, No. 5 Northwestern’s Taylor Thornton also dominated with five, and Taylor D’Amore, Johns Hopkins’ key player at the faceoff, had four draws of her own.

Florida, on the other hand, has used an interchangeable parade of five players (Brittany Dashiell, Janine Hillier, Hayley Katzenberger, Kelsey Dlugos and Kitty Cullen) during each game, with none of them averaging more than two per contest.

“We’ve definitely had some sloppy things that have happened,” Cullen said. “Draw controls are so important, because you get control of possession and the other team doesn’t.”

Not winning the draw has immediately hurt the Gators in the last two games. The Wildcats scored 22 seconds after the opening faceoff, and Vanderbilt needed only 12 seconds.

But O’Leary was impressed with the way her team rebounded on the final draw against the Commodores after Brittany Dashiell’s 8-7 game-winner with 30 seconds left.

“We talked about the last draw, and how hard we worked to get that last draw,” O’Leary said. “If we had worked that hard on every single draw, the score might not have been indicative of what it was.”

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With that in mind, it looks as if Florida will have a chance to break out of its slump and get back on track at the faceoff in its May 1 game at Cornell (4-7, 2-4 Ivy League).

The Big Red haven’t won the draw in their last two games and have only won the total face off battle in five of their 11 games.

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