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Sunday, November 28, 2021
<p>Mollie Stevens (17) runs toward the net during Florida's win against San Diego State last season at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.</p>

Mollie Stevens (17) runs toward the net during Florida's win against San Diego State last season at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

One hundred three goals and 30 assists.

That’s how much of last season’s offense the No. 7 Florida lacrosse team is losing from graduated midfielders Shannon Gilroy and Nora Barry — just over 30 percent of the team’s scoring from 2015.

Though the Gators lost just three players — Gilroy, Barry and defender Mikki Offit — that is a lot of production to replace.

But coach Amanda O’Leary doesn’t have any doubts that this year’s squad can rise in the wake of significant losses.

"We certainly have the personnel," O’Leary said on Monday.

"We have the ability to make up for those points pretty easy. It’s just a matter of them stepping up and taking the reigns and going with it."

One player who is expected to do just that is veteran Mollie Stevens.

The junior midfielder, who was unanimously named an All-Big East first-team preseason selection last week, is coming off her best collegiate season, setting career highs in six categories including goals (43) and assists (nine).

Nicole Graziano is another midfielder who O’Leary expects to play a heavy role in making up for the recently departed midfielder duo.

To go along with a career-best 26 goals, the Mendham, New Jersey, native finished last season tied for the second-most assists on the team and created the third-most turnovers with 18.

O’Leary is also confident that the team's freshmen will step up along with the rest of team by the start of the season, which is Saturday against Loyola.

"They came in the fall, really hit the ground running, found their way," O’Leary said of the newcomers.

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Among the new Gators are Lindsey Ronbeck and Sydney Pirreca — the top two recruits in the 2015 class. They’re joined by Caroline Benitez and Madi Hall.

O’Leary is expected to trot out some of her new pieces at Donald R. Dizney Stadium on Saturday to get significant playing time.

"They’re quite a crew and a group that really made their presence known early on," O’Leary said.

Another challenge facing Florida, with the loss of Gilroy, is the question of who will handle the draws.

Gilroy led the Gators in draw controls during each of her four collegiate seasons, and last year’s runner-up in the category had just over half as many controls as Gilroy did.

Despite this fact, O’Leary said on Monday that UF has six viable options in the draw circle.

The most notable of the six may be Devon Schneider, who stands at a towering 6-foot-2 — five inches taller than the next-tallest Gator.

With Gilroy and Barry both accounting for 37 percent of the team’s draw controls last season, UF will need one or more players to rise to the occasion when it comes to securing possessions in the middle.

"People are really going to have to step up," O’Leary said. "And, I think, play lights out at the draw circle."

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

Mollie Stevens (17) runs toward the net during Florida's win against San Diego State last season at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

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