When the No. 3 Florida lacrosse team played No. 1 North Carolina on Saturday, one thing was noticeably different from last season’s game.
It wasn’t the players on both sides missing due to graduation, nor was it the game being played in Gainesville rather than Chapel Hill. It was the timer counting down from 90 under the scoreboard, something that played a part in UNC’s 13-10 win over Florida.
This is the first season that the NCAA introduced a shot clock. Before, teams could hold onto the ball for as long as possible.
Now, teams have just 90 seconds to shoot the ball, or the ball is turned over to the other team.
For the Gators, the shot clock won’t be an issue for their fast-paced offense.
“I think it just gives you a sense of urgency, you know?” attacker Shayna Pirreca said after the loss to UNC. “It’s like when you see 20 seconds left, the offense can get frantic, like they have to score right away, which we’re not really used to where we can just hold the ball forever before.”
It was a rare sight for the shot clock to dwindle to half for Florida because of its quick-shot attack.
But on defense, the shot clock could make all the difference near the end of close games.
The Tar Heels used the shot clock to their advantage, forcing Florida to spend most of the 90 seconds playing tight defense and trying to stop UNC from getting the open cut.
And when it got the open cut, UNC capitalized, won the subsequent draw control and put Florida back into the same position it was in before.
For most of the game, Gators defenders had to apply pressure to the UNC attackers, forcing two turnovers due to a shot clock violation.
“I think 90 seconds is a long time, so I don’t envision it being that big of an impact throughout the season,” coach Amanda O’Leary said on Saturday. “Whether it changes when people play a zone, maybe it will be a little different.”
The shot clock won’t be an issue for Florida on Wednesday when it plays an exhibition match against the Scotland National Team at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.
Last season, Florida played the Wales National Team, winning 16-5 in a game it controlled. And earlier this season, it played the U.S. National Team in a 20-19 loss that looked similar to the UNC game.
With No. 4 Southern California looming on Feb. 24, this game against Scotland could get the Gators more accustomed to the shot clock and better prepare them for the tough non-conference schedule that lies ahead.
Attacker Shayna Pirreca leads Florida with 44 goals on the season.