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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Gators are playing their best lacrosse of the season. They are coming off their biggest win in the program’s three-year history. 

But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t use some time off.

Following an 8-7 road win over top-ranked Northwestern on Saturday to take the American Lacrosse Conference regular season championship for the second season in a row, No. 3 Florida is off until May 4, when it will play its first game of the ALC Tournament in Gainesville.

“The time between Northwestern and the tournament is planned pretty nicely for us,” head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “We do have some time available to give kids some rest.”

O’Leary said the rest would be beneficial even though the Gators are as healthy as they have been all season. Three of Florida's top six goal scorers in Brittany Dashiell, Kitty Cullen and Shannon Gilroy have all missed time within the last four weeks due to various injuries. 

“That is going to be the key to success for us going into the postseason,” O’Leary said. “It is a very long season for us. It is a grueling season. So for us to be healthy at this point in time is certainly an advantage.”

Florida’s 12-day break is longer than that of any other team in the conference and the most time it has ever had off prior to the ALC Tournament.

Having already defeated all three of their possible second-round conference tournament matchups during the regular season in Johns Hopkins, Ohio St., and Vanderbilt, O’Leary said the team feels confident against whomever it plays. 

“Right now, this time period, until we know exactly who we’re going to play, is going to have to be about us,” O’Leary said. “We need to continue to get better a work hard and not have a lull in our practice plan.”

Gabi Wiegand, who was named National Player of the Week for her four-point game against the Wildcats, said the attack needs to work on taking care of the ball. While Wiegand's scoring tally was impressive, the junior attacker also had three turnovers. Midfielders and attackers accounted for all 11 of Florida’s giveaways against Northwestern.

“We did little things that caused the ball to turn over,” Wiegand said. “Whether it was overthrowing a pass or not protecting our stick. Simple things like that can be easily corrected.”

After the Gators shut out the Wildcats for the last 20 minutes of each half Saturday, junior defender Sam Farrell said there isn’t a lot the defense needs to improve upon. Florida just needs to work on being consistent.

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“Every day we play against the best attackers in the country,” Farrell said. “This really is the best practice for us, practicing against each other every day.”

Although they have a lot of time off, O’Leary said the Gators are already focused on what’s ahead, and she did not allow her team to bask in the glory of Saturday’s win for too long.

“I think we stopped on Saturday evening,” she said.

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