For the first third of the season, the No. 3 Gators (5-1) lacrosse team’s offense has been tested by a tough non-conference schedule that included four ranked teams and a two-game road trip to Maryland.
And in every game, with exception to the season-opener against North Carolina, Florida has controlled the pace of the match.
So far, the offense has shown it can compete with some of the best defenses in the country.
The Gators have scored 96 goals in six games, which includes matchups against UNC, Southern California and Stony Brook. That goal total puts Florida in a tie for third in the NCAA in goals per game with 16.
In their last three games against then-No. 16 Towson, Loyola and then-No. 7 Stony Brook, the Gators scored 50 goals behind career highs from senior attackers Mollie Stevens and Sammi Burgess, and junior attacker Shayna Pirreca.
During March 5-11, Stevens and Pirreca eached scored 11 goals, with Stevens scoring seven against Stony Brook and Pirreca scoring five against Loyola. Both Gators are tied for tenth in the NCAA in goals per game (3.5).
Burgess recorded eight goals and nine assists, including a seven-point performance against Towson.
“Mollie starts us off in the draw circle, then comes down on the offensive end and she just has an eye for the goal,” coach Amanda O’Leary said. “She knows where she wants to put the ball, and she can do that, so that’s a great thing to have on the offensive end. (Burgess and Pirreca) get the ball and they are really hard to stop...I can’t say much more about those two except I’m glad they’re on my team.”
While the Gators’ offense has exceeded expectations so far this season, it still has two more difficult games lying ahead.
The first is today against No. 5 Syracuse (7-1), a team that, just like Florida, has controlled most of its games this season.
“(The Syracuse game) is always a one goal game, I feel like,” O’Leary said. “Even if it isn’t, it always feels like a close game.”
Especially this season, it will feel like a close game.
The Orange have scored 110 goals in eight games, and have let up 74 goals.
They are led by sophomore midfielder Natalie Wallon in ground balls (21) and caused turnovers (14), and she is one of six players with at least 10 goals. Sophomore attacker Nicole Levy and freshman attacker Emily Hawryschuk lead all scorers with 14 goals.
Aside from Syracuse’s high-scoring offense, the Orange also have one of the tougher zone defenses Florida will face this season.
Getting past this defense will be the biggest problem the Gators offense will need to overcome.
“For us, we’ve played against enough zones, but their zone is a little more unique,” O’Leary said. “I feel like every zone we come against has a little bit of a different look to it and their’s certainly has a little bit of a different look.”
Florida lacrosse coach Amanda O’Leary (left) was pleased with the way her bench performed in its 18-6 victory over Marquette on Saturday. "It is... good to see some players who typically don't get in and see what they can do,” O'Leary said.