With snow flurries in the air, the Gators lacrosse team was able to endure the cold conditions, as well as a challenge from the Denver Pioneers, to walk out of Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium as the 2018 Big East regular-season champions.
Though it was close for most of the game, UF pulled away in the second half of its 18-13 victory on Saturday afternoon.
“A very hard fought game by both teams,” Gators coach Amanda O’Leary said in a release. “Every time we went on a roll, Denver answered back, so credit to them.”
Going into the game, No. 9 UF (13-3, 8-0 Big East) had won five straight games by double digits. Early in the first half, it appeared that it would be in for another dominant conference victory.
Senior attacker Shayna Pirreca scored less than one minute into the game, and the Gators jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead over the first 16 minutes. However, the Pioneers’ ninth-ranked defense asserted itself.
Denver (10-5, 5-3 Big East) answered with a seven-goal run to take the lead, but a Florida goal from attacker Allie Pavinelli tied the match 7-7 going into halftime.
The Gators opened the second half on a three-goal run to take a 10-7 lead. Denver was able to score six more goals in the second half but was unable to close the gap against Florida.
The Pioneers scored two unanswered goals late in the second half to narrow the Gators lead to 16-13, but a goal from Pirreca put a stop to the run. A subsequent goal from junior attacker Lindsey Ronbeck sealed the victory for UF.
Ronbeck and Pirreca — the Gators’ leading scorers — each recorded a hat trick in the win against the Pioneers. Ronbeck scored five goals while Pirreca scored four.
UF had eight more shots on goal than Denver and won in the draw circle 21-11.
For Florida, Saturday’s victory marked the team’s fourth consecutive Big East regular season title since joining the conference in 2015.
Denver gave the Gators one of their most competitive games in conference play, but eventually fell against the conference regular-season champions.
Now, UF will finish its slate at home against Butler on Saturday. The Gators, now having clinched the No. 1 seed, will host the Big East Tournament starting May 3. UF will also look to get past the first round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2015 season, when it defeated Stanford 15-10 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
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Junior midfielder Sydney Pirreca scored four goals on five shots in Florida's 18-13 win over Denver on Saturday.