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Sunday, February 05, 2023
<p>Mary-Sean Wilcox defends a shotduring UF’s win against Cincinnati on Feb. 23 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.</p>

Mary-Sean Wilcox defends a shotduring UF’s win against Cincinnati on Feb. 23 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

In her third straight start, Mary-Sean Wilcox showed just how valuable she is in net.

While No. 4 Florida (13-2, 4-0 American Lacrosse Conference) won 10-9 at No. 13 Johns Hopkins (10-2, 1-2 ALC) on Saturday, it wasn’t the offense or the defense that shined for the Gators — it was the team’s sophomore goalkeeper.

In a game where every draw control, ground ball and offensive possession could swing momentum, the Gators found solace in Wilcox as she made save after save and ultimately kept them in the game.

Wilcox was Florida’s No. 2 goalkeeper for the first 12 games of the season, starting her first game of the season against Stetson on March 26. She worked mostly as a closer for redshirt senior goalkeeper Cara Canington, but coach Amanda O’Leary said the sophomore has been battling it out with Canington for the starting position all season in practice.

Wilcox agreed with O’Leary and said practices are pivotal in deciding who will start, specifically for the goalkeepers.

But Wilcox said having two exceptional keepers practice against each other every day for a starting position has helped them become better players.

“[Canington is] a very experienced goalie,” Wilcox said. “I think we work well together, I think that even though it is a battle we do still help each other out in practice and games and stuff. So we’re very supportive, but were both very competitive at the same time.”

Wilcox played her best game of her career yet, tallying eight total saves in her second full game of the season. The Lutherville, Md., native became the Gators’ biggest momentum builder in the start of the second half after the Blue Jays jumped out to a 4-2 lead.

With a close score at the end of the game, Wilcox made sure to hang on and prevent the Blue Jays from tying up the score with a quick save on a free-position shot.

The issue Wilcox now faces is making sure to repeat her performance when Florida faces Vanderbilt on Sunday — the team that broke Johns Hopkins’ 10 game win streak just a week before it faced Florida.

“Vanderbilt is a tremendous program as well,” O’Leary said. “They have done a really great job (this season). They have a tremendous coaching staff there. Their upperclassman are very, very seasoned.”

The Commodores’ sophomore midfielder, Kelly Chandler, has had breakout performances in the last two weeks and will be one of Florida’s biggest targets in defending. Against Hopkins, Chandler led the Commodores to a 12-11 win with four goals.

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Florida only has two regular-season games left and both are ALC conference games.

If Wilcox can continue to make big saves and make momentum-changing game plans, Florida could shut down Chandler’s scoring abilities and consequently, control the offensive pace for Sunday’s game.

“We have our work cut out for us,” O’Leary said. “The big thing for this program is to get going faster. … We need to go out and set the pace of this game.”

Follow Eden Otero on Twitter @edenotero_l

Mary-Sean Wilcox defends a shotduring UF’s win against Cincinnati on Feb. 23 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

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