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Thursday, February 02, 2023
<p>After graduating 12 seniors in 2013, Florida looked to 2014 as a year of rebuilding with 11 new players on the field. However, Florida ended conference play undefeated despite the lack of experience. The Gators won their fourth straight American Lacrosse Conference regular-season title, second conference tournament title and made a fourth straight NCAA Quarterfinals appearance.</p>
<p>Next season, Florida will still be fighting to be the No. 1 seed, but coach Amanda O’Leary and company will have to do so in their new conference: The Big East.</p>

After graduating 12 seniors in 2013, Florida looked to 2014 as a year of rebuilding with 11 new players on the field. However, Florida ended conference play undefeated despite the lack of experience. The Gators won their fourth straight American Lacrosse Conference regular-season title, second conference tournament title and made a fourth straight NCAA Quarterfinals appearance.

Next season, Florida will still be fighting to be the No. 1 seed, but coach Amanda O’Leary and company will have to do so in their new conference: The Big East.

Florida was calling it a bounce-back game, a game to fix the problems it encountered on opening day against North Carolina, the No. 2 ranked team in the nation.

On the road in Jacksonville on Wednesday night, the Gators stormed back and repaired any damage they may have suffered against UNC.

No. 4 Florida (1-1) defeated Jacksonville (0-1) 17-8 in the Gators’ first road game of the young season. Florida got exactly the production it was looking for from both the offense and defense and, after a bit of a slow start, simply dominated the Dolphins.

Senior Shannon Gilroy has picked up this season exactly where she left off in 2014, when she led the nation with 86 goals.

Gilroy had a team-high five goals on Wednesday night and made history in the process. Gilroy has now scored for Florida in 18 straight games, the third longest streak in team history.

With her performance against Jacksonville, Gilroy also took sole possession of second place on Florida’s all-time scoring list.

She is just 12 goals behind Kitty Cullen, who had 203 as a Gator.

"She (Gilroy) had a big game, and she actually was sick, we weren’t even sure she was gonna be able to play," coach Amanda O’Leary said. "I was really pleased overall, obviously with Shannon, and Sammi (Burgess) and Mollie (Stevens), they had a really good supporting cast."

The Gators had seven goal scorers on Wednesday night and received contributions from key offensive players who had quiet games in the season opener.

Sophomore Sammi Burgess and senior Nora Barry were two players in particular for Florida who needed to get more involved in the offense against Jacksonville and back to their performance level of last season.

Burgess, who didn’t get the start against Jacksonville, rebounded with an impressive outing against the Dolphins with three goals.

Barry recorded two goals along with two draw controls and three ground balls.

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For the Gators’ offense to be where the team wants it to be, among the best in the country, Burgess and Barry need to play big roles week after week.

They did so Wednesday night and the boost they gave the offense was visible on the field.

"I think it’s a huge confidence booster," O’Leary said of Burgess and Barry. "I think with those guys that’s important if you want to play with confidence, you want to play with that kind of attitude, and I think they went out and competed hard tonight."

Sophomore Mollie Stevens continued her impressive start to the season with three more goals on Wednesday, giving her seven in the first two games of 2015.

Redshirt junior Nicole Graziano is also turning heads in her first two games back after missing most of 2014 with an ACL injury.

Graziano added two goals and three draw controls against Jacksonville.

Overall, the game against the Dolphins was about Florida improving on its faults that were exposed last Saturday against UNC.

The Gators wanted to improve on draw controls, which they won 18-9 on Wednesday, and be generally more well-rounded on offense.

Seventeen goals from seven different players proved good enough for O’Leary.

"I couldn’t be more proud of their effort," O’Leary said. "I think they went out hard, they played well...so I’m happy with the performance tonight."

Follow Alex Maminakis on Twitter @alexmaminakis

Shannon Gilroy looks to shoot the ball during Florida’s 18-7 win against High Point on Feb. 15 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. Gilroy was named the Midfielder of the Year by womenslax.com after setting UF records in goals (86) and points (106).

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