No matter how Florida’s year ends, the Gators can rest assured they will avoid at least one loss heading into the offseason.
UF’s roster should enter 2012 unscathed.
At this time of the year, most teams are preparing to send off their seniors. Before Florida’s 8-7 win on Sunday, Vanderbilt held its Senior Day for six upperclassmen. In two weeks, Cornell will do the same for its two seniors.
The Gators, on the other hand, won’t have to say goodbye to a player for another year.
“For the program, definitely it’s a good thing that we’ll have almost every single person returning for the next two years,” said Caroline Cochran, the team’s only junior.
Florida has done what most in women’s lacrosse thought was impossible: win the American Lacrosse Conference with a second-year team comprised of Cochran, 10 freshmen and 16 sophomores.
Before the season, the No. 3 Gators (14-1, 5-0 ALC) were picked by the conference’s coaches to finish fourth in the ALC behind No. 5 Northwestern, No. 17 Vanderbilt and No. 13 Penn State.
Each of those teams will lose key players to graduation in the offseason. Meanwhile, the only threat to Florida’s roster is potential transfers or injuries.
“There’s so many positives that I wouldn’t see anyone who would really want to leave,” Cochran said. “Since our team’s so close, it’s hard to say. I can’t speak for every single person, but for the most part, everyone is having a great time and we all get along great.”
UF coach Amanda O’Leary said she isn’t thinking about how good the Gators might be in future seasons, and sophomore Caroline Chesterman couldn’t help but marvel at what they have accomplished this year.
“Honestly, we’re all taken aback by the situation,” Chesterman said. “We knew that we were going to be a good team, but I think we’re all kind of shocked that it happened so soon.”
Offensively, Florida has improved almost across the board from a year ago, headlined by National Player of the Week and Tewaaraton Award nominee Kitty Cullen.
The sophomore has more than doubled her 2010 goal total with an NCAA-leading 67 scores.
Even with the progress they have made after losing seven games in their inaugural season, the Gators still have a lot left to achieve in 2011.
They own the top seed and a first-round bye in the ALC Tournament, which will be held from May 5-7 in Nashville, Tenn., and are a clear favorite to earn their first bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“I don’t think that we can even get lazy just because of all of the accomplishments we’ve had,” Cochran said. “They’re great accomplishments and we’re thrilled about all of them, but everyone’s coming out to compete, so we still have to come out with that high-caliber level, too.”