On a picturesque February afternoon, the Florida women’s lacrosse team opened its season with a dominant 22-7 victory over the Kennesaw State Owls. Florida outshot the visitors 37-18 and were on the frontfoot the entire game.
“I thought we played really well defensively through the midfield and then finishing on the offensive end,” head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “I could not be more pleased with with our effort.”
Freshman attacker Emma LoPinto tied a school record for goals in a game by a freshman with six, recording five in the first half alone. It was also the record for most goals in a season opener in program history. The Manhasset, New York, native also dished out a pair of assists to finish her collegiate debut with a team-high eight points.
“She's just a generational player,” O’Leary said. “I think today she showed (it’s) just tip of the iceberg. I think there's a lot more we can get out of her.”
The freshman said she was nervous heading into her first collegiate game, but those nerves never revealed on the field. LoPinto also noted how former Gator and fellow Manhasset native Lindsey Ronbeck helped her prepare for this moment.
“Since I've gotten here, [Ronbeck] kind of texted me, gone through like what to expect and she's a mentor to me,” LoPinto said. “I've always looked up to her, so it's awesome to wear her number.”
While LoPinto stole the headlines, Florida’s offense was led by a triumvirate of young stars. Sophomore Danielle Pavinelli picked up where she left off last season, scoring four goals and dishing two assists. Fellow sophomore Ashley Gonzalez led the team with four assists and also added a goal.
“It's fun to watch them play. They have fun out there, and I think that's the biggest thing I take away is how much fun they have,” O’Leary said. “And when they make mistakes, they have each other's backs.”
All-American goalie Sarah Reznick was hardly called into action, making three saves. Florida’s defense played physical and aggressive, forcing 10 turnovers and giving next to no space for Kennesaw State to operate – though that physical style did yield 30 fouls on the Gators.
Florida took control early, scoring two goals before the visitors even possessed the ball. Both teams made sloppy mistakes early, but Florida’s superior athleticism and physicality gave the Gators an edge when the game descended into loose ball scrums. UF took a 5-2 lead into the second quarter, but Kennesaw pushed back.
The Owls scored first in the second quarter and forced Florida into some mistakes. The Gators responded emphatically with a 6-0 run to extend the lead to eight and kill any Kennesaw dreams of an upset. Florida ended the second half with a commanding 12-4 lead.
The Gators continued to pull away in the third quarter before putting in the reserves to wrap things up in the fourth. Even with a heavily roasted lineup, Florida rolled through the fourth quarter to inflate an already impressive final score.
“I think it was just settling down a little bit. I think we went on a quick run, and then you know, kind of slowed down a little bit,” O’Leary said.
Despite such a strong showing, the Gators have plenty to refine before the meat of their non-conference schedule. O’Leary said the defense needs to be cleaned up and the draw is still a work in progress.
The Gators host Scotland in an exhibition match Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. before facing top-10 North Carolina Saturday at 12 p.m.
Contact Topher Adams at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Topher_Adams.
Topher Adams is a third-year journalism major and one of the assistant sports editors for the Spring 2023 semester. He also covered Florida football lacrosse for the paper and loves to follow MLS soccer and professional lacrosse.