There’s no way around it.
Florida’s offense was shut down in its 14-11 loss to No. 14 Towson on Wednesday night. Despite a late rally, going on a 6-1 run in the final 11:29 of the game, UF suffered its third loss of the season.
“This is a great learning experience for us,” coach Amanda O’Leary said after the game. “We’ve relied on coming back against teams.”
O’Leary is right. In the Gators’ nine games this season, the team has played from behind during the second half in five of them.
In all three of No. 6 Florida’s losses this year, it scored a flurry of goals in the final minutes but ultimately fell short.
How will the Gators (6-3, 1-0 Big East) avoid these slow starts in the future?
“It starts with the details,” O’Leary said.
She mentioned securing more ground balls, as well as converting on free-position attempts as being priorities for the team moving forward.
Scoring free-position goals has been an Achilles heel for the Gators this year. In the loss to Towson, they only scored on four of their 14 free-position attempts. On the season, Florida’s free-position percentage is .476, which ranks 32nd nationally. O’Leary said that missing out on so many potential goals is unacceptable.
UF’s offensive woes were exacerbated by second-leading scorer Lindsey Ronbeck’s absence. In games where Ronbeck plays, the Gators average 16.3 goals. In the two games without her, they’ve scored 11 in each.
However, Ronbeck is expected to return to the starting lineup on Saturday at noon against Georgetown at Cooper Field, which should positively impact UF’s scoring attack.
The Hoyas (5-2, 1-0 Big East) also lost to Towson on Feb. 19, albeit in less-competitive fashion, falling to the Tigers 21-13. They opened Big East play with a 19-10 home victory over Villanova last Saturday.
From a defensive perspective, Georgetown doesn’t present as great a challenge as Towson did. The Hoyas’ defense ranks 87th, allowing 13.4 goals per game.
Goalkeeper Haelle Chomo has made 57 saves this year, and her save percentage is a meek .416. With the return of Ronbeck, the Gators should be able to score on Georgetown.
The Hoyas are stronger on the offensive side. Their attack is anchored by sophomore Michaela Bruno and junior Taylor Gebhardt, who each have scored 20 goals this season. Georgetown’s offense features six players who have double-digit goals this year.
Facing the Hoyas on the road will represent one of the more challenging conference games UF will play this season, but it also presents a chance to bounce back from Wednesday’s loss to Towson. The Gators are healthy once again, and the Hoyas’ defense is not as strong as the defenses Florida has struggled against this year.
Follow Tyler Nettuno on Twitter @TylerNettuno and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attacker Lindsey Ronbeck is expected back for the Gators after missing last game with an injury.