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Thursday, March 30, 2023

The best lacrosse players are often most dangerous when they are one-on-one with the goalkeeper. However, Ashley Bruns is at her best behind the net.

The junior attacker is in the midst of an offensive hot streak as No. 5 Florida (4-1) prepares to take on No. 11 Syracuse (1-2) on Saturday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

Bruns, who leads the Gators with 17 goals and nine assists, is scoring at a higher rate than last season, when she had 19 points through the first five games.

One reason Bruns has been able to take her game to another level is her improved decision making behind the net, where she is often positioned when the Gators have possession.

“She is such a phenomenal player,” coach Amanda O’Leary said of Bruns. “She is such a threat behind the goal…Whenever she has the ball, teams need to focus on her.”

Just more than four minutes into Florida’s 23-5 win over Siena last Friday, Bruns scored the 100th goal of her career when she wrapped around the right post and put a shot in the top left corner of the net. It was the first of her UF single-game record eight goals in the game and one of her three first-half wraparound goals.

Then, in UF’s 22-3 win over Detroit on Sunday, Bruns showed she could do more than just score when handling the ball behind the goal. With the Gators leading 6-1 almost 17 minutes into the game, Bruns passed the ball over the net to junior attacker Kitty Cullen, who was open at the top of the 12-meter fan. Cullen took the ball through the left side of the arc and scored.

While Bruns played in a similar position before this season, she also said she has gotten more comfortable with her decision-making and knowing when to pick her spots.

“After a while, defenders think I am going to go,” Bruns said. “But my teammates are going to be wide open in the middle and I’d rather hit them on a free, open middle shot than take a shot that is not 100 percent.”

Junior attacker Gabi Wiegand said Bruns has struck an effective balance when it comes to scoring and getting her teammates involved.

“If I see she is going to drive I just kind of get out of the way, but she is always looking with her head up,” Wiegand said. “So she’s looking with a purpose to do both – looking for the feed while she is looking to score.”

Prior to the Siena game, Bruns' career-high for goals in a game was six, a feat she had accomplished three times and most recently in a 16-11 win at Syracuse last season.

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Bruns refused to give herself the credit for the win, and said it was a team effort that the Gators need to repeat.

“We knew exactly what we wanted to do and we went out there without fearing Syracuse,” Bruns said. “This year we need to go out with the same mindset.”

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