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Wednesday, December 07, 2022

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For the first time, Jaime Reeg was recognized on the street as a

Gators lacrosse player.

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Not by friends, not by familiar classmates, but simply, by a

fan.

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"You're one of the lacrosse girls right?" a passerby asked. "Good

game last night."

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The sophomore midfielder has seen firsthand the growth of support

around Gainesville for No. 2 Florida (15-1, 5-0 America Lacrosse

Conference) -most noticeably in the stands- as the season has

progressed.

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Just 687 people, not even half of Dizney Stadium's capacity, showed

up for the then unranked Gators' home opener against Denver on Feb.

20. Two weeks ago, a crowd of 1,518 packed the same complex to

watch a two-goal win over then No. 2 Northwestern.

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"It's great since we're doing really good, more and more people are

getting into the sport of lacrosse here, so it's awesome to see

more people in the crowd," Reeg said.

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However, the victory over the Wildcats was Florida's last scheduled

home game, and possibly, the last time Gainesville residents have

the opportunity to see the team live until the fall.

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This Sunday at noon, the team faces its second consecutive road

test against Cornell (5-8, 3-4 Ivy League) in Ithaca, N.Y.,

following a two-week hiatus from competition.

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Four days later is the ALC Tournament in Nashville, Tenn., which

precedes the first round of the NCAA Tournament starting May 14-15.

Florida has put in a bid to host an opening round contest if it is

selected into the field of 16, but the Gators will likely need an

ALC championship to receive it.

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"I think it's exciting for the players, and I think it's exciting

for the coaching staff to look up in the stands and see a packed

house," UF coach Amanda O'Leary said. "It's certainly an incentive

to play harder and play well in front of your home crowd. I don't

know if it's disappointing, but I know it's something we

appreciate."

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With an impending slate of away games though, O'Leary said she has

been using tough practices to keep her team focused and motivated.

The Gators are rather inexperienced playing on the road, as just

four of their 16 games this year have been played in opponents

stadiums.

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Florida has won its away games by an average of 4.25 goals and has

one loss. At home, the Gators are undefeated and have beaten

opponents by 7.18 points per game.

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"Last year, we struggled a little bit on the road, because it was

such a new experience for all of them," O'Leary said. "I feel like

we're becoming better at being on the road and playing road games.

So I'm not as nervous about being on the road for those."

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The Big Red, who are coming off a 13-9 loss to No. 18 Syracuse,

have a losing record at home and usually attract only 134

spectators to Schoellkopf Field for each contest.

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Sophomore Brittany Dashiell, who scored a last minute game-winner

in the April 17 Vanderbilt game, said the matchup should provide a

good tune up for Florida, along with a chance for the team's second

string and back ups to get substantial playing time for the first

time in five games.

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"We're just focusing right now on making sure we come out and play

our best and finish off the season strong," she said. "Hopefully,

we go out there and beat them by 10 goals, but I guess we'll see on

Sunday."

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