Florida has come up short on defense during American Lacrosse Conference play, a trend that could prove troubling in the final weekend of the season.
If the Gators finish in a three-way conference tie, the title winner is determined by which team has allowed the fewest goals during the conference season.
Florida (15-1, 3-1 ALC) enters the weekend tied for second with Penn State. Each sits a game behind conference-leader Northwestern (13-1, 4-0 ALC).
Northwestern currently owns the tiebreaker, having allowed only 27 goals during conference play compared with Florida’s 42 goals allowed and Penn State’s 48.
The Gators face the Wildcats at noon on Saturday in Dizney Stadium. Penn State faces Johns Hopkins on Saturday. If the Nittany Lions lose and Gators win, Florida earns the ALC title outright.
“It’ll all work out in the end,” coach Amanda O’Leary said. “There’s all these different outcomes and all these different scenarios, but until every team has played its final game, we won’t know what the standings will be.”
Against their first 12 non-conference opponents, the Gators defense was seemingly impenetrable. Florida allowed an average of 5.67 goals per game while facing perennial national championship contenders Syracuse, North Carolina, Loyola and Dartmouth.
But that defensive success has not translated to conference play. Florida has allowed 10.5 goals per game in four conference matchups.
“I think we need to play a better defensive game,” O’Leary said. “We are a little unsettled at times, and I think we have to go back to playing a solid defense.”
After allowing double-digit goals only once through 12 games, Florida has given up at least 10 goals against No. 6 Penn State and unranked Vanderbilt.
“I think this week we are focusing on our defense compared to other weeks when we were focusing on the opponents’ attack,” senior defender Sam Farrell said. “We are trying to perfect our defense.”
ALC foes have had an average shot percentage of .487 against Florida. In non-conference play, Florida’s defense held opponents to a .345 shot percentage.
“I think a lot of those shots in ALC play were right on the doorstep,” O’Leary said. “They were close and inside on Mikey (Meagher), and we have to change that.”
Senior Sam Farrell runs down the field during Florida’s 16-9 win against Stony Brook on Feb. 20 at Dizney Stadium. UF will clinch the American Lacrosse Conference championship outright win a win against Northwestern on Saturday and a Penn State loss.