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Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Five games into the season and No. 5 Florida’s (5-1) defense has finally woken up.

Florida’s 14-1 win at No. 13 Stony Brook University (3-2) started out as a battle between defenses.

As the battle began, Stony Brook took the first draw control and held the ball until the 23 minute mark which lead to a save by Florida’s redshirt senior goalkeeper Cara Canington and a pass to her 6-foot-2 sophomore teammate, Devon Schneider. It took Schneider 20 seconds to put the first point of the game on the board.

To Florida’s dismay, the Seawolves countered just three minutes later and crushed the momentum for Florida’s scoring.

It took Florida’s defense to cause four big turnovers by freshman Caroline Fitzgerald and big saves by Canington to jumpstart the Gators offense in the last six minutes of the first half.

Coach Amanda O’Leary has said that the defense has been a work I progress because of its youngness.

“Any time you can hold a team like Stony Brook to just one goal, that’s quite an accomplishment because they are an excellent team,” O’Leary said in a release.

In total, Florida’s defense wreaked havoc against Stony Brooks, topping the Seawolves in clears (18/19-11/11), saves (11-6) and caused turnovers (11-6).

Florida’s defensive effort breathed some life into the slow-to-start offense, which only put five points on the board and took four draw controls in the first half.

When the Gators came back onto the field for the second half, it became the first time in the day that Florida started putting up the fight that fans are used to seeing.

The team managed to put up another nine points, win six draw controls and take 16 shots in the second half.

However, the biggest effort of the day came from Canington and Fitzgerald’s pairing. Canington defending the goal and Fitzgerald guarding Canington worked in Florida’s favor and held the Sea Wolves to one point for the entire game.

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American Lacrosse Conference Player of the Week Krista Grabher led the defensive effort as she has the entire 2014 season.

The senior has worked hard to help create O’Leary’s newest defense, which Grabher said has become a more of a unit than Florida’s previous defense.

“Defensively, Caroline Fitzgerald just played extremely well and I’m really impressed with her play,” O’Leary said. “We had Krista (Grabher) and Taylor (Bresnahan) in a face guard, and I thought they did a phenomenal job.”

Follow Eden Otero on Twitter @edenotero_l

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