With the Gators’ 18-6 victory over Marquette on Saturday, UF lacrosse coach Amanda O’Leary said that her players are still focused heading into its longest road stretch of the season.
“Any time you can get a win in this league, it’s important,” she said.
Florida (11-3, 6-0 Big East) has won 28-straight conference matchups and will take on a Cincinnati squad at noon today that has lost its last six games. The two teams have played four times before, with the Gators taking all four, including a 19-2 victory last April.
The Bearcats (6-7, 0-6 Big East) haven’t won a game since their 17-11 victory against Campbell on March 8.
It has been a season to forget for Cincinnati. After beginning the year 6-1, the Bearcats have collapsed since conference play began.
UF will be the first – and only – ranked opponent that Cincinnati will play this season. Though the Bearcats appear to be overmatched against the No. 9 Gators, they still have some “offensive firepower”, as O’Leary put it.
The Cincinnati scoring attack is led by a pair of sophomores: attacker Monica Borzillo and midfielder McKenna Rushford. The duo has combined for 66 of the team’s 159 goals this season.
“We have our work cut out for us on the defensive end,” O’Leary said.
In goal for the Bearcats will be junior Giuliana Durso. She has made 132 saves this year for a save percentage of .439.
Florida’s high-powered offense will challenge Durso. The Gators’ attack is tied for 10th in the country, averaging 16 goals per game. Senior attacker Shayna Pirreca has made the most of her final campaign, scoring 42 goals and 14 assists through 14 games.
Her sister, junior midfielder Sydney Pirreca, has 37 goals while junior attacker Lindsey Ronbeck has 36.
In the win against Marquette, Big East Defensive Player of the Week Sabrina Cristodero shut down then-conference goals leader Grace Gabriel, holding her to two shots. The freshman has been a defensive force for the Gators all year, and she leads the team in draw controls with 72.
She will likely play a large role in Florida’s defensive game plan against Cincinnati, as she and the rest of the Gators’ defense will attempt to keep Borzillo and Rushford in check.
Heading out on a 3,700-mile road trip, O’Leary knows that all of the travelling will be difficult for the team. However, she believes that it will prove valuable in the long run, especially for the team’s younger contributors.
“It’ll be a challenge for us,” she said. “I think it’s a great learning experience for our players.”
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Junior midfielder Sydney Pirreca scored four goals on five shots Saturday against Marquette.