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Monday, June 05, 2023
<p>Shannon Gilroy runs toward the net during Florida's win against San Diego State at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.</p>

Shannon Gilroy runs toward the net during Florida's win against San Diego State at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

Just four games into the season, Florida appears to have found its groove.

Since their opening-day loss to No. 2 North Carolina, the No. 5 Gators have won three straight games, most recently a 17-7 home win over San Diego State (0-1) on Friday night.

In their last three games, the Gators have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 55-15 and have seemingly dominated their opponents in all facets of the game.

In fact, until the Aztecs scored their first goal 12 minutes into the contest, Florida had gone 72 minutes and eight seconds without surrendering a goal, a streak that spanned its three wins.

Players have talked about how well they feel they are connecting with their teammates both in practice and in games, specifically using the term "meshing." Coach Amanda O’Leary agrees that her young team has quickly grown and come together to perform so well on the field, a progression that has been visible in Florida’s games thus far.

"Although we have some upperclassmen, we’re still fairly young," O’Leary said. "For us to get out there and make those adjustments in-game and to show a little bit more maturity each and every time we step on the field, I thought they’re doing a good job maturing and certainly coming together."

O’Leary is pleased with how balanced the Gators have been in each of their four games this year, from the attackers to the goalkeepers.

Senior midfielder Shannon Gilroy is the anchor of Florida’s high-powered offense, something she has proven game after game.

Gilroy scored five goals against San Diego State and leads the team with 14 this season.

She is now just eight goals shy of becoming the Gators’ all-time leading goal scorer.

After Friday’s win, O’Leary said she thought Gilroy played her best game of the season, one week after missing time with tonsillitis.

"I think Shannon showed what she can do," O’Leary said. "She was able to shoot the ball really well, she was driving hard to the goal cage, she was seeing her teammates when she was caught in double teams, so I thought it was a really complete game from Shannon."

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On the opposite end of the field, sophomore Caroline Fitzgerald has been the leader of Florida’s defense up to this point.

She was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Week last week and continues to play lockdown defense while guarding the opponent’s most dangerous offensive players.

The overall balance that the Gators possess has shown in the last two weeks as they have been able to smother opponents all over the field and put games away early.

"She’s a phenomenal player and I’m certainly glad she’s on my team and I don’t have to play against her," O’Leary said of Fitzgerald.

Fortunately for O’Leary, she could currently say the same thing about the rest of her roster.

Follow Alex Maminakis on Twitter @alexmaminakis

Shannon Gilroy runs toward the net during Florida's win against San Diego State at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

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