Players on the Florida women’s lacrosse team made their way toward senior goalkeeper Haley Hicklen as she walked off the field after Saturday’s loss to No. 3 North Carolina.
Hicklen’s teammates showered her with hugs and tapped her bright orange helmet to show their appreciation for the senior’s 11-save performance.
“Haley (Hicklen) was lights out,” coach Amanda O’Leary said. “She just came up with some huge saves to keep us in the game.”
The two-time Big East Goalkeeper of the Year will need a similar outing for the Gators when they host No. 8 Princeton on Tuesday night.
UNC came into Donald R. Dizney Stadium averaging 16.9 goals per game, but UF (3-5) allowed only 11.
O’Leary said her team did this by man-marking attackers Jamie Ortega and Katie Hoeg.
Sophomore defender Sabrina Cristodero was responsible for Ortega, who was tied for fifth in the nation in goals with 31 coming into the game, and held her to only one goal on seven shots.
Junior defender Cara Trombetta was tasked with following Hoeg, the Tar Heels’ leader in assists, and limited her to only one.
“We went after their one-two punch with our one-two punch,” O’Leary said, “and I thought (Cristodero and Trombetta) did fantastic.”
The Tigers (4-1) have the nation’s eighth-ranked scoring offense, which averages 16 goals per game.
Attackers Tess D’Orsi and Elizabeth George are at the forefront of Princeton’s attack, having scored 20 and 15 goals, respectively.
George is the primary draw taker for a Princeton team that wins more than half of its draw controls (57 percent).
That’s bad news for Florida.
It has lost the draw control battle in each of its five defeats this season.
“The draw circle is where the game is won and lost, for the most part,” O’Leary said.
Sophomore midfielder Shannon Kavanagh takes most of the draws for the Gators, while Cristodero and senior attacker Lindsey Ronbeck line up around the draw circle.
When the three of them work together to gain possession, it leads to victories.
UF had more draw controls in its triumphs over then-No. 18 Colorado in the season opener and Elon on March 7.
The final score in Florida’s win against High Point on March 9, 16-15, reflected the importance of the draw. Both teams controlled the draw 16 times, leading to a back-and-forth game, which was decided in the final four minutes.
The trio of Kavanagh, Cristodero and Ronbeck have to command the draw circle against the Tigers to avoid a third-straight loss.
Follow Bryan Matamoros on Twitter @bmatamoros_ and contact him at email@example.com.
Florida midfielder Shannon Kavanagh (left) is second on the Gators with 24 draw controls this season and is the main option for the draw circle. “The draw circle is where the game is won and lost, for the most part,” coach Amanda O’Leary said.