After opening Big East play with an 11-10 road victory over Vanderbilt on Sunday, the No. 6 Florida lacrosse team will take on Towson in a non-conference match today at 6:30 p.m. at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.
Florida’s offense was lackadaisical in its victory over the Commodores, recording a season-low in goals, but UF’s stifling defense held off a late push from Vanderbilt to come away with the win.
When the Gators (6-2) take on the No. 14 Tigers (5-2) tonight, they could be without key contributors. Senior defender Aniya Flanagan has missed Florida’s last two games, while junior attacker Lindsey Ronbeck suffered a knee injury against Navy on March 13, forcing her to miss the Vanderbilt game.
Sophomore Madisyn Kittell and junior Caroline May started in place of Ronbeck and Flanagan, respectively, against the Commodores. Kittell has five goals on the year, while May — a former midfielder — recently switched to defense after missing most of last season with a torn meniscus.
But without Ronbeck, the Gators’ second-leading scorer, it will likely be another defensive showdown.
UF goalkeeper Haley Hicklen ranks fifth in the nation with 11.75 saves per game, while Tigers goalkeeper Kiley Keating boasts a save percentage of .456.
Towson’s defense is also tied for 12th in the NCAA in goals allowed, giving up only 9.29 goals per game.
“(Towson is) disruptive on the defensive end of the field,” Gators coach Amanda O’Leary said in a release, “so we have to make sure to value ball control.”
So far this season, Florida has struggled in the draw circle. The Gators were dominated on draws against Navy, losing the battle 26-11, forcing them to go on a late offensive surge to win the game. UF coach Amanda O’Leary said after the victory that draw controls would be a big focus for the team moving forward, and it performed much better in the circle against Vanderbilt, winning 13 draw controls to the Commodores’ 10.
Towson has not been strong on draws this year either, tying for 79th in the country through seven games, giving Florida a likely advantage heading into today’s action.
On offense, the Tigers are led by senior midfielder Emily Gillingham, who has 21 goals this season. The Kitchener, Ontario, native played the best game of her career earlier this season on Feb. 18, notching seven goals in a victory over Georgetown.
Towson will be the sixth ranked opponent Florida has faced this season, as well as its final non-conference opponent before the team hits the meat of its Big East schedule.
"Focusing on all the little things will be crucial for us to beat a very talented Towson team,” O’Leary said. “We're excited for the opportunity to play in a night game at home in front of our fans.”
Follow Tyler Nettuno on Twitter @TylerNettuno and contact him at email@example.com.
Senior Aniya Flanagan has missed UF's last two games with an undisclosed injury.