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Saturday, March 25, 2023

On Sunday, the Gators could barely contain their excitement when the bracket came up on the screen.

In just its second year together, a team full of sophomores and freshmen earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

As the fourth overall seed in a field of 16 teams, Florida found out it will host a first round game on May 14 at 1 p.m. against 13-seeded Stanford.

With a closer look at their draw though, the players’ expressions turned serious.

Stanford is far from an early tournament pushover, going 16-2 and winning the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championship.

“The unique part about this matchup is that they were ranked in the top 10 throughout the season, so I’m sure they probably anticipated not having to travel all the way to Florida to play this game,” coach Amanda O’Leary said.

Despite Stanford’s impressive résumé, it will have to trek the 2,338 miles from Palo Alto, Calif., to Gainesville, a distance farther than the other eight road teams have to travel combined.

Florida (15-3, 5-0 American Lacrosse Conference) has been perfect at home this year with 11 wins, while both of Stanford’s losses came on the road.

“We’re super excited, and the fact is that Stanford has to travel pretty far for this one,” sophomore

Caroline Chesterman said. “So hopefully, they’re not ready for the heat and ready for the type of support we get because it’s a whole different game down here in Gainesville. You never see the type of fans or just the excitement that lacrosse gets down here.”

While Cardinal coach Amy Bokker has publicly displayed disappointment in her team’s seeding, the Gators felt a sense of relief with their placement after losing two of their last three games in regrettable fashion.

Florida had its 14-game winning streak snapped in an upset loss to unranked Cornell in the regular season finale.

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A week later, UF blew a three-goal lead late in the second half of the ALC Championship.

“The losses obviously didn’t help, but we’re right where we predicted we were going to be at the time,” midfielder Caroline Cochran said.

Two of the three teams selected ahead of the Gators — Northwestern and No. 3 seed North Carolina — have beaten Florida this year.

The No. 1 overall seed is defending NCAA champion Maryland, who is also in the Gators’ half of the bracket.

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