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Sunday, November 28, 2021
<p>Florida lacrosse players celebrate after a goal during UF's 18-4 win against Georgetown on April 4 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.</p>

Florida lacrosse players celebrate after a goal during UF's 18-4 win against Georgetown on April 4 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

Jim Darcangelo answered a phone call from back home in Maryland. It was his wife, Marilyn.

Their pipes were frozen.

"That’s why we’re down here," Darcangelo said.

Darcangelo owns a home in Cocoa Beach, Florida, about 170 miles southeast of Gainesville.

But he isn’t just a snowbird who flies down to Florida to escape the winter. His daughter, Sam, is a junior midfielder for the Gators’ lacrosse team.

He wants to watch his daughter play. And he isn’t the only parent who shares that sentiment.

Florida’s roster has 31 players, 27 of whom are from out of state. Most come from states such as Maryland and New York.

But being hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles away from their daughters at the University of Florida doesn’t stop the players’ parents from seeing them play.

Some fly. Some drive. Some, like Darcangelo, have decided to live in Florida part time.

Many make the trip each week, whether it be a home game in Gainesville or an away game somewhere closer to their actual home. Others make the trip when time allows them to do so.

"My dad and my mom have always been super supportive of me, and I don’t think they’ve ever missed a game since I’ve been at Florida," said Sam, a Freeland, Maryland, native. "I remember one time, my freshman year, they told me that they weren’t going to make it to a game, and then I looked up and my dad was in the stands waving to me. It’s really cute, it’s really nice and I appreciate it a lot."

At every Florida home game, players wave into the stands from either the bench or the field with a big smile on their face to whomever is there cheering for them that day.

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"I really appreciate it," said freshman Allie Pavinelli, from Northport, New York. "It’s hard being away from home. I definitely love it here, but you get that sense of home when they (her parents) come down and visit me and it’s just really good to see them every time they come down because I don’t see them very often."

Pavinelli said her parents and younger siblings attended Florida’s home game against Loyola on March 3. It was the only game her siblings could make because they were on spring break that week, so they took the opportunity to come down and see their older sister.

Moving across the country to a school where they don’t know anybody can be tough, especially for the younger players. It helps to see a familiar face or two each week.

Mollie Stevens, from Centreville, Maryland, is a sophomore now, but she said during her freshman year her parents came to most of her games, which made her transition to college easier for her.

"It definitely helped me because I’m a baby. I love having my parents around," Stevens said.

"It’s pretty far, but I love having them at my games, so it means a lot to me that they make the effort to come to most of them. I just really like playing in front of them, it makes me feel better and feel more comfortable."

The players have gotten to know other parents, the parents have gotten close among themselves, and the entire atmosphere of the program has become so tight because of those connections around the team.

"Since I’m a freshman, I don’t really know many people on the team," Pavinelli said, "but all the parents are so nice and supportive. Even parents that I don’t even know will come up to me after the games and say how well I played, and I don’t even know whose parents they are."

Stevens said her high school lacrosse team was nowhere near as close as the Gators are now.

This type of interaction between the players, parents and the community that has been engulfed the Florida lacrosse program is unordinary.

Coach Amanda O’Leary loves that her players’ parents are involved with the team and travel to games.

"The parents are certainly a part of (the team culture), because they are involved, and that’s a good thing," O’Leary said. "It’s nice for our players to have that support, it’s nice for us as coaches to have that support as well."

O’Leary said seeing their families after games can help the players if they happen to have a tough game.

Sometimes it’s easier to complain to your parents than your coaches.

"I think (the parents’) support is really unique, probably, for a school that’s so far away from the majority of where their student-athletes are going to school," O’Leary said. "We have so many parents that do travel, and it’s wonderful."

For Jim Darcangelo, a man who played lacrosse until 1990, he said his whole life has been around the sport. That hasn’t changed now that Sam is playing for the Gators.

"I’ve had a lot of fun with (lacrosse), it’s been really close to me, close to my heart," Jim said, "and that’s where the Gators are now, close to my heart."

 Follow Alex Maminakis on Twitter @alexmaminakis

Florida lacrosse players celebrate after a goal during UF's 18-4 win against Georgetown on April 4 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

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