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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Assistant coach Michelle Tumolo is one of the Gators’ most valuable assets when Florida lacrosse plays Syracuse.

She knows more about Syracuse than any of the other UF coaches or players. Some of her best friends are at SU in the lacrosse program, the same program that Tumolo spent four years playing in during college, from 2009-2013.

No. 6 Florida (6-1) hosts No. 5 Syracuse (5-2) tonight at 6:30 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in one of the Gators’ most highly anticipated matchups of the season. For Tumolo, it’s her chance to catch up with former coaches and teammates, some of whom are still playing for the Orange.

“Yeah, it is weird,” Tumolo said of coaching against her alma mater. “It’s definitely always (weird), but it’s fun, you know? You graduate and you have to move on. … It was the best four years of my life, and it’s fun to play against such a place that gave me a great athletic time.”

Tumolo is now in her second year of being an assistant coach at Florida. In her time at Syracuse, she was named to the All-Big East First Team three times, was named the Big East Attack Player of the Year as a junior and a Tewaaraton Trophy finalist that same year – the Heisman of collegiate lacrosse.

So, when Syracuse shows up on the schedule each year for Florida, Tumolo can give the Gators the valuable advantage of insight.

She gets Florida ready for the Orange by displaying her best impersonation of Syracuse’s famed fast paced offense for the Gators in practice, to show them how Syracuse will attack in the actual game.

“I think I know how Syracuse’s mental game is. I played there, they’re very focused,” Tumolo said. “They know what they need to get done, but I think we match that here at Florida…we just gotta be ready to match their energy and come out and play with confidence.”

Senior Nora Barry also has her share of ties to Syracuse. Barry grew up in Marcellus, New York, which is less than 15 miles from the campus of Syracuse University in upstate New York.

“I mean, I’m a Syracuse fan of other sports,” Barry said, “and I’ll be playing against a lot of my friends, so it is always a little bit weird.”

Tonight’s game is a big one for both teams. The Orange are coming off two straight losses to No. 4 Boston College and No. 1 Maryland. They don’t want to lose a third.

For the Gators, they are looking for their first win against a top 10 opponent this season to prove that they belong among the nation’s elite lacrosse programs.

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Emotion fills this rivalry between Florida and Syracuse, one that hits close to home for a select few Gators.

“It’s exciting and nerve-wracking,” Barry said. “I think it’s gonna be interesting because both teams really need this win, so it’s gonna be a fight, for sure.”

Follow Alex Maminakis on Twitter @alexmaminakis

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