Florida’s starting lineup against Syracuse on Wednesday was much different than the one it put out against High Point over the weekend.
Coach Amanda O’Leary made three changes.
She replaced senior midfielder Sydney Pirreca with sophomore midfielder Eddy Shoop, junior midfielder Brianna Harris with sophomore attacker Grace Haus and senior midfielder Madi Hall with freshman defender Emma Wightman.
Pirreca, Harris and Hall were among several players who were held out against the Orange for “violating team rules,” according to O’Leary.
They’ll return to the field when the Gators (3-4) square off against No. 3 North Carolina on Saturday at 1 p.m. This is the second of three-straight games in which UF hosts a top-10 opponent.
Shoop, who played in 17 games her freshman year, started her first game as a sophomore against Syracuse.
A hand injury forced her to miss the first four games of the season, but she was cleared to play against Elon and the Panthers, coming off the bench in both matches. The sophomore has already scored three goals on only four shot attempts.
Haus made her way back into the starting 12 after a two-game hiatus. She is third on the team in goals scored (13) and points (17).
Wightman made her first collegiate start for Florida on Wednesday. She was part of a defense that caused nine turnovers, which is tied for the most an opponent has recorded against the Orange all season.
The Tar Heels (6-1) come into Donald R. Dizney Stadium on a three game win streak after losing to No. 2 Maryland in overtime on Feb. 24.
UF will need to contain attackers Jamie Ortega and Katie Hoeg.
Ortega is the focal point of North Carolina’s offense, leading her team in goals (31) and shots (63), while Hoeg is its playmaker, posting a team-high 21 assists.
Free-position goals are hard to come by against the Tar Heels’ defense.
Opposing teams are just 13-for-40 from the free position, holding them to a 33 percent conversion rate.
Florida struggled from the free position against Syracuse, scoring only five times in 14 attempts.
O’Leary attributed the low conversion rate to fatigue from players who were out on the field for the entire game.
“It’s really something we need to work on,” she said. “That is a glaring piece of the stats that needs to improve if we are going to compete against these top-5 teams.”
Follow Bryan Matamoros on Twitter @bmatamoros_ and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senior midfielder Sydney Pirreca was among several players who were held out against Syracuse on Wednesday for “violating team rules,” according to coach Amanda O’Leary.