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Thursday, February 02, 2023
<p>Sammi Burgess (2) drives to the net during Florida’s 21-5 win against Jacksonville on Feb. 12 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. Burgess chose UF over several different schools.</p>

Sammi Burgess (2) drives to the net during Florida’s 21-5 win against Jacksonville on Feb. 12 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. Burgess chose UF over several different schools.

In sports, the beginning of a season is refreshing for a team.

It’s a blank slate.

And with any new season comes the first game.

No. 3 Florida opens its 2015 season on at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday when it hosts No. 2 North Carolina (1-0) at Dizney Stadium.

The first game typically plays out like a mother coaxing her young child into a swimming pool for the first time – she needs to help the child in slowly, but once he or she is fully submerged into the pool, the child adjusts and comes to enjoy the experience.

For Florida lacrosse, this will not be the story of its first game.

The Gators’ first game will consist of the mother deviously shoving the young child into the pool with no help or care of the child’s fate.

Florida is no stranger to the Tar Heels of UNC, but they aren’t exactly best buds either.

North Carolina holds a 4-1 series lead against the Gators, with last year’s match going to the Tar Heels by a score of 20-8.

With Saturday’s game being Florida’s first of the season, the Gators want to come out strong and prove that last year’s lopsided defeat will not be an annual occurrence against UNC.

The Gators want to make a statement.

Sophomore attacker Sammi Burgess said Florida’s confidence will be the biggest difference between this year’s game against UNC and last year’s.

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"Last year, nobody knew what to expect from us," Burgess said. "We are still young but we are really good this year, and we have all the potential in the world."

Burgess added that this year’s freshman class could be a big advantage when competing with top-tier teams, starting on Saturday with UNC.

"They’re amazing," Burgess said of the freshmen. "If we can get them to be confident on the field and to just trust in what they’re doing, they’re gonna be a huge role on our team."

Shayna Pirreca is one of those talented freshmen, an attacker from Mount Sinai, New York.

For her and the rest of the eight-member freshman class, Saturday’s match against UNC will be a great learning experience, whether they play in the game or not. The atmosphere alone will be enough of a welcome to college moment.

"It’s definitely very nerve-racking but it’s really exciting at the same time," Pirreca said of her first collegiate game being against UNC. "Just to go out there and get to compete on the highest level my first game, it’s really exciting."

Pirreca said she is feeling comfortable fitting into the Florida offense and is ready to go if her number is called against the Tar Heels.

This match against UNC will only be the beginning of a very intimidating schedule this year for the Gators. Florida will face six teams ranked inside the preseason top 20, including No. 1 Maryland, the defending NCAA champions.

But Burgess and the Gators are staying confident and trusting in themselves to make the 2015 season a memorable one.

"I think that if we can work together and come together as a team," Burgess said, "we’re gonna be amazing."

 Follow Alex Maminakis on Twitter @alexmaminakis

Sammi Burgess (2) drives to the net during Florida’s 21-5 win against Jacksonville on Feb. 12 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. Burgess chose UF over several different schools.

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