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Sunday, November 28, 2021
<p>Mollie Stevens (17) runs down the field during UF lacrosse's season-opening loss to UNC on Feb. 7, 2015 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.&nbsp;</p>

Mollie Stevens (17) runs down the field during UF lacrosse's season-opening loss to UNC on Feb. 7, 2015 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. 

For just the third time in the program’s seven-year history, the No. 7 Florida lacrosse team came out of its regular-season opener with a win.

Mollie Stevens’ career-high five goals gave Florida a 15-6 victory over No. 13 Loyola as the team heads into its second week of play.

Stevens’ effort came in the team’s first game following the departure of Shannon Gilroy, Florida’s all-time leading goal scorer. But Stevens doesn’t see herself as Gilroy’s sole replacement.

She sees every player on the team as a threat to score whenever the opportunity may arise.

Nevertheless, her career day could be attributed in part to her work with the U.S. Women's National Team in the offseason.

"That was a wake-up call, just being around players like that," Stevens said of her time with the national squad. "Everyone’s good so you can’t take a play off and I think that’s really helped me improve my game."

But Stevens’ performance was just one aspect of Saturday’s game that went well for Florida against one of the nation’s top teams.

Of the Gators’ 15 goals, nine were preceded by an assist, with three coming off the stick of junior attacker Sammi Burgess.

While the sample size was small, that number far exceeded last season's goal-to-assist ratio of 41 percent.

Florida head coach Amanda O’Leary did not hesitate to give credit to assistant coach Crysti Foote for preparing the team’s offensive gameplan. Foote is in her first season at UF following a four-year stint as an offensive coordinator and assistant coach at Louisville.

"She’s been working with each and every one of (the players), giving them kind of the confidence that any one of them can have the ball in their stick," O’Leary said. "It’s just as important to make an assist as it is to score a goal."

The freshman class was well-represented during Saturday’s contest, even though just four of 11 newcomers saw action.

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Midfielder Sydney Pirreca scored the Gators’ final goal of the game, midfielder Lindsey Ronbeck produced four shots, handled two draw controls and forced two turnovers, and freshman goalie Haley Hicklen let in just two goals while playing the entire second half.

But while Florida controlled the game from start to finish, the Gators still have room to improve — especially when it comes to turnovers. A clean first half was followed by a sloppy second half in which the Gators turned the ball over 10 times, with five of those lost possessions occurring on unforced errors.

O’Leary sees the turnovers as mental mistakes.

"It’s not as if our sticks are letting us down," O’Leary said. "I think our brains kind of go on hold for a second and we’re just making kind of bad decisions. … That’s something we really, really need to address in the next week."

Florida will have a week to make improvements, as the Gators host Michigan on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Contact Kyle Brutman at kbrutman@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @KBrut13

 

Mollie Stevens (17) runs down the field during UF lacrosse's season-opening loss to UNC on Feb. 7, 2015 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. 

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