Players leaving, coaching changes and evolving tactics all affect the preparation of a team and how it performs from season to season.
The most notable change for the Gators’ lacrosse team this year, however, is its transition from the Big East to the American Athletic Conference.
The Big East consisted of 10 teams, but the AAC’s inaugural season of women’s lacrosse is made up of only six teams: Florida, Cincinnati, UConn, Temple, Vanderbilt and East Carolina.
UF holds a 25-3 all-time record against these teams, and its dominance was evident in the AAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
The Gators were selected to win the conference, receiving five of the six first-place votes. Additionally, seven members of the team earned Preseason All-Conference honors. If that wasn’t enough, Florida also swept the AAC Preseason Player of the Year awards.
Senior Haley Hicklen was named Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year after a record-breaking season in 2018. She set the Florida single-season record with 178 saves, and she finds herself 25 saves away from the school’s career record.
Junior Cara Trombetta was awarded with Preseason Defender of the Year. She started all 21 games as a sophomore, averaging 2.05 caused turnovers per game. Her 43 caused turnovers in 2018 set the program’s single-season record.
Senior Sydney Pirreca earned Preseason Midfielder of the Year honors. In her junior year, she finished with 53 goals, 15 assists, 26 ground balls and 49 draw controls after starting in every game of the season.
Senior Lindsey Ronbeck enters 2019 as Preseason Attacker of the Year after leading the team in scoring last season. She scored 65 goals as a junior, averaging 3.61 goals per game, which ranked 12th in the nation.
Switching to the American means less traveling for the Gators, who played Denver and Marquette on the road throughout their four-year stint in the Big East.
It also provides them with the flexibility to organize games against stiffer competition outside of the conference.
No. 6 Florida’s non-conference slate includes eight ranked opponents: Maryland (T-No. 2), North Carolina (T-No. 2), Stony Brook (No. 5), Princeton (No. 8), Loyola (No. 9), Navy (No. 13), Syracuse (No. 15) and Colorado (No. 17).
“It’s critical for us to have a really strong out-of-conference schedule,” coach Amanda O’Leary said. “I think it sets the bar for us.”
For the second consecutive year, the Gators will start their 2019 campaign against No. 17 Colorado on Saturday in a non-conference matchup.
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Senior Lindsey Ronbeck was named the American Athletic Conference’s Preseason Attacker of the Year. She’s fourth on UF’s career goals list with 159.