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Monday, February 26, 2024

No. 7 Florida falls at home to No. 2 North Carolina

The Gators struggled to create offense while the Tar Heels showed why they’re championship favorites.

<p>UF lacrosse fell to No. 2 North Carolina Saturday</p>

UF lacrosse fell to No. 2 North Carolina Saturday

Midfielder Shelton Sawers rushed the open field, scanning the offense for an open look on net. 

She found midfielder Danielle Pavinelli with a precise pass as the final ticks dwindled away. Pavinelli, who scored a game-high six goals, aimed and fired with just two seconds left on the clock. The ball whizzed past North Carolina goalkeeper Taylor Moreno and into the net.

The goal was a consolation prize as the result had been set in stone. 

Florida lacrosse suffered its first loss of the season, falling at home 15-11 to the No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels in front of a packed Donald R. Dizney Stadium. 

The home crowd created a boisterous atmosphere for a highly anticipated top-10 matchup, but the Gators couldn’t parlay the energy into a statement victory. UNC executed at an extremely high level and made it a long afternoon for the hosts. 

Florida’s offense struggled to break through the Tar Heel defense all afternoon. Freshman Emma LoPinto was held in check, scoring just twice, while sophomore Ashley Gonzalez didn’t register a point. 

The Gators had trouble distributing the ball, producing just four assists as a team. The offense devolved into long dodges from up top and individual moments of brilliance to create opportunities. 

Against a stiff North Carolina defense, that wasn’t enough. 

Pavinelli was the saving grace for the Gator offense. The sophomore midfielder was a prolific goal scorer and added on a pair of assists. She also had a game-high 11 shots. 

UF struggled with penalties all afternoon, committing 26 fouls and several other violations throughout the contest. These errors led to several extra possessions and opportunities for the Tar Heels. 

The game lived up to its blockbuster billing in the first quarter. 

Both defenses brought intensity and physicality, making things miserable for the offenses. After both teams traded goals and long defensive stops, North Carolina found its form. The Tar Heel offense dissected Florida’s defense with quick passes and finishes, going on a three-goal run and building a 5-2 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Gators fought back in the second quarter, finding some offensive rhythm, but the Heels closed the half with a three-goal advantage, 9-6.

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Florida came out of the break with newfound energy, but UNC proved to be too much. 

The Tar Heels controlled the tempo of the second half and were in full command of the game, outscoring the Gators 5-2 in the third quarter. 

UF fought till the bitter end, continuing to press defensively and even scoring a handful of goals in the final quarter, but it wasn’t enough to close the gap. 

“We played hard against a tough top-5 opponent today,” head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “A lot of credit goes to how resilient our players showed to be after finding themselves down.” 

The Gators head on the road for the first time this season next Saturday, traveling to College Park, Maryland, to face the No. 8 Maryland Terrapins. 

Contact Topher Adams at Follow him on Twitter @Topher_Adams.

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Topher Adams

Topher Adams is a fourth-year communications major and in his fourth semester with the Alligator. He previously covered football, baseball and women's basketball. He also enjoys professional lacrosse and Major League Soccer.

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