If there’s one thing the Gators lacrosse team has going for it heading into Big East play, it’s momentum.
After dropping a close game against Syracuse on March 7, it looked as if UF was going to lose its second straight game on Tuesday, as No. 10 Navy got out to a 10-2 lead in the first half.
However, No. 6 Florida (5-2) rallied in the second half, eventually defeating the Midshipmen (5-2) 19-16 to improve its confidence ahead of its first conference game against Vanderbilt on Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee.
“It puts a lot of confidence behind us going into the Big East,” said freshman midfielder Shannon Kavanagh, who scored the Gators’ final four goals against Navy on Tuesday.
Since joining the Big East in 2015, Florida has been the most dominant program in the conference by far, winning the title every year it has been a member.
UF has only lost one conference regular season game since it joined, an 11-10 defeat against Connecticut on April 18, 2015.
The Gators were unanimously picked during the preseason to win the Big East once again.
Although they are heavy favorites, the road to a fourth straight conference championship will not be easy. Florida will face two difficult road opponents on its path to the Big East tournament
As of publication, Denver is ranked No. 16 and Georgetown, though not ranked in the Cascade Media top 20, is ranked in the IWLCA top 25 at No. 25.
“We have some great competition,” Gators coach Amanda O’Leary said.
UF has been a force offensively so far this season. Its scoring attack ranks No. 4 in the nation, averaging 17.7 goals per game.
However, there is some uncertainty moving forward. Junior attacker Lindsey Ronbeck – who is second on the team in scoring with 20 goals – exited the game against Navy in the first half with an apparent knee injury and didn’t return. Her status moving forward is unclear, but it is likely she will miss some time.
Because of this, players like sophomore attacker Madisyn Kittell will most likely see an increased role during conference play.
While the Gators have had a strong start to the season, there are certainly areas in which they need to improve. After getting manhandled in the draw circle by Navy, O’Leary said that the team needs to improve on draws in order to defend its conference title. She also said that securing ground balls would be a focus in the future.
Florida has its sights set on a deep run in the NCAA tournament, but in order to do that, it will need to improve during conference play. Freshman defender Cara Trombetta said that the Gators need to continue their strong play game to game to achieve the goals the team has set.
“Every opportunity we have to get better and play as a team is going to help us in the future,” Trombetta said.
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Attacker Lindsey Ronbeck missed the second half of the game against Navy with an apparent knee injury.