As the clock hit zero in the Florida lacrosse team’s season-opener against then-No. 1 North Carolina, the Gators were left with their first loss of the 2017 season.
Despite tying the Tar Heels late in the second half after trailing for most of the game, the Gators couldn’t keep up the pressure, succumbing to four UNC goals in the last four minutes.
“We did well, but we did not play to our full potential and we know that,” attacker Mollie Stevens said after the UNC loss.
Since that game, UF has shown its potential in full force.
Florida (8-1, 2-0 Big East) is currently riding an eight-game win streak, five of which came against ranked teams. Over that stretch, the Gators have outscored their opponents 140-79.
On top of that, Florida leads the NCAA in scoring offense (16.67 goals per game) and is fifth in assists per game (7.44). Stevens ranks sixth in the nation with 3.67 goals per game, and attacker Sammi Burgess ranks 13th in assists per game with 2.33.
Five Gators, Stevens, Burgess, Shayna Pirreca, Sydney Pirreca and Lindsey Ronbeck have at least 32 points.
Florida’s defense has been just as good.
Goalkeeper Haley Hicklen is 11th in the NCAA in save percentage (.503) and is on pace to break the UF single-season save record with 84 saves. Florida has also scooped up 219 ground balls and has caused 92 turnovers.
Since the first game of the season, the Gators have shown their full potential, earning their placement as the No. 3-ranked team in the NCAA.
While the Gators have shown that they are one of the top teams in college lacrosse, if they want to move above their No. 3 ranking, a win against No. 1 Maryland would do the trick.
“Playing in a game like this is why you come to the University of Florida,” coach Amanda O’Leary said.
Maryland (9-0), one of two teams in the top 25 that’s undefeated, claimed the top spot after a 13-10 win over UNC. That was the closest margin of victory for Maryland, which has outscored opponents 143-75.
“We’ve had a really tough schedule to start the season, and I am so proud of how we’ve handled it and gotten better with each game,” O’Leary said. “Maryland is a fantastic opponent, and we’re looking forward to a great game.”
The game is set for a 2 p.m. starting time at the Maryland Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in College Park, Maryland.
Florida attacker Mollie Stevens (right) chases the ball in UF's loss to North Carolina on Feb. 11.