The last time the Florida lacrosse team laced up was March 10, 2020 against Navy at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.
It was an emphatic 17-9 win over the No. 19 team in the country. However, UF’s dominant victory would be its last in 2020, before the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The squad finished the season ranked sixth in the nation with a 6-2 record. Now, the Gators are more than ready for 2021.
“Our team is coming off of a strong fall and is ready to take on the spring,” head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “Across the board, people made some giant strides forward individually, and I think as a team we’ve made some really positive strides forward.”
“We are on the road for the first eight games, so we’re going to have to make sure we’re focused,” she said.
While seniors were stripped of their season, defender Cara Trombetta will be returning to the lineup with the extra year of eligibility she’s been granted due to the pandemic.
“I didn’t really feel finished yet,” Trombetta said. “I didn’t want all that hard work to amount to nothing.”
Trombetta finished the 2020 season with six honors. The defenseman made Inside Lacrosse’s Division I Preseason All-America First Team as well as the Tewaaraton Watch List. She was also the AAC Defender of the Week Feb. 10 and 17 and March 2.
Her performance off the field and in the classroom landed her on Spring SEC Academic Honor Roll and the AAC All-Academic Team. She closed out the brief season on ILWomen’s All-America First Team.
“I still get up, work out, go on the fields with my teammates and work hard every day,” Trombetta said. “I want to win the national championship. That's something that means so much more to me than individual awards.”
Senior midfielder Shannon Kavanaugh also has high expectations for the 2021 season.
“I'm definitely excited just to get out on the field again,” Kavanaugh said. “So, I'm definitely looking forward to being able to play some good competition again.”
Kavanaugh was the player to beat last season, finishing with eight accolades. Similar to Trombetta, Kavanaugh began 2020 on the Tewaaraton Watch List as well as Inside Lacrosse’s Division I Preseason All-America Second Team.
Player of the week is Kavanaugh’s specialty, as she was US Lacrosse’s National Player of the Week Feb. 17 and IWLCA’s National Offensive Player of the Week Feb. 18. Kavanaugh was the AAC’s midfielder of the week Feb. 10 and 17 and March 2 and 9.
Academically, she made Spring SEC Academic Honor Roll as well as the AAC’s All-Academic Team. She ended 2020 on ILWomen’s All-America First Team.
Heading into 2021’s season, Kavanaugh is eager to pick up where the team left off last March.
“Going into each game and just focusing on winning each one is what’s going to be most important,” Kavanaugh said.
To O’Leary, the pandemic is the biggest concern. She said she has urged her players about the importance of staying safe during the offseason.
“Playing our season is the main priority, so we need to do everything we can to make sure that we’re taking all precautions,” O’Leary said.
However, Florida’s head coach is optimistic about the spring season.
O’Leary’s roster remains nearly identical, adding only seven new recruits.
Brie Catts is a two-time Georgia state champion and four-time Under Armour Underclass All-American. In 2017 and 2018, the midfielder was invited to Nike Elite 120 and Under Armour 150 — two invite-only recruiting events. Catts was a varsity starter all four years of high school.
Goalkeeper Elyse Finnelle made Inside Lacrosse’s Top-40 Young Gun Junior Watch List. The Heather Leigh Albert Award finalist was an Under Armour All-American Baltimore Champion in 2019-20. She was a four-sport varsity athlete in high school.
The duo will be joined by fellow freshmen midfielder Josie Hahn, attacker Emma LoPinto, defenseman Celeste Forte, midfielder Macy Zaban and defenseman Alexa Waters.
Going into its 12th year, the program is ready to chomp.
“We have the same goals that we always do. We want to win a conference championship, we want to compete for a national championship,” O’Leary said.
Contact Karina Wilson at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @kk_rinaa
Karina Wilson is a second-year student at the University of Florida within the College of Journalism and Communications with a specialization in sports and media. She aims to produce engaging, accurate and current content for all types of sports fans. Currently, Karina is The Alligator's lacrosse beat writer.