Following up a breakout freshman year can put a lot of pressure on a young player, especially one who is asked to do so much.
In 2014, Sammi Burgess had arguably one of the best freshman seasons of any Gator in the history of Florida lacrosse, so it was strange for her and the team when her start to 2015 was not quite so glamorous.
Burgess, an attacker, finished last second on the team last season with 38 goals and added 15 assists.
She started in 20 of the 21 games that she played in and was a major part of leading the team to the NCAA quarterfinals.
She was bombarded with accolades during and after her freshman year, such as 2014 ALC Rookie of the Year, and even before her sophomore year began Burgess was named to the 2015 BIG EAST Preseason First Team.
Needless to say, Burgess caught the attention of collegiate lacrosse. She displayed her game for everyone to see.
But those same people that saw Burgess’ breakout first year also saw her struggle in Florida’s 2015 season opener against No. 2 North Carolina. She recorded just one assist and one shot in the Gators’ loss to the Tar Heels – not exactly Sammi Burgess statistics.
"I was not necessarily unhappy with myself after the UNC game, but I thought I could have been more of a presence," Burgess said. "I think I was really timid and not confident going into that game for some reason, and it happens. But I definitely wanted to bounce back and improve from, you know, doing basically nothing."
She has done the opposite of "basically nothing" in Florida’s two games since the season opener. Burgess didn’t get the start in the Gators’ next game against Jacksonville, just the second game she’s played in that she hasn’t started, but she quickly came off the bench and seemed to jump right back into her groove.
In the last two games, Burgess has scored six goals and has totaled two assists and seven shots — statistics she’s more used to producing.
Burgess said she’s learning to not take everything so seriously, to not think about it as much.
"I think that I’ve just kind of gotten out of my own head, gotten out of my own way," Burgess said. "I always say being confident helps a lot and I just have to realize that it’s just a game sometimes…it’s how you react to the mistakes you make rather than getting down on yourself during a game, and I think that’s what happened to me during UNC."
Now, coming off of two-straight wins against Jacksonville and Michigan in which Florida outscored the two opponents 38-8, the No. 4 Gators (2-1) host San Diego State (0-0) tonight at 6:30 in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
Burgess and the Florida offense will look to continue the scoring trend and build upon what they have learned thus far this young season.
"Now we’re just clicking, and it feels so natural when we’re out there with each other," junior attacker Lauren Lea said. "You know each other’s strengths and you work off of that, so when we’re out there on the field it just feels very natural and it’s just very easy to get along with each other, on and off the field."
As for Burgess, she said she’s back to her normal ways, evidenced by her last two games. She’s back to Sammi being Sammi.
"I get more confidence by working on it and improving in practice every day, rather than being down on myself and not doing anything about it," Burgess said. "There’s still room for improvement, but I’m definitely more confident than I was."
Follow Alex Maminakis on Twitter @alexmaminakis