After a strenuous three-game road trip, the Florida Gators finally returned to the friendly confines of Florida sunshine and roaring home crowd home conference opener.
The No. 10 Florida Gators (9-4) cruised past the Old Dominion Monarchs (5-9) 21-6 for their seventh-straight win. Florida is also now 2-0 in the American Athletic Conference.
“I think we're off to a super start in conference,” head coach Amando O’Leary said. “I think the team is focused. They're working hard, they're doing everything we asked them to do.”
From the opening whistle, the gulf in quality between the two sides was apparent. Florida’s offense ripped through the Monarch defense with a scoring clinic, scoring eight goals on just 11 shots in the first quarter.
When Old Dominion had possession, Florida’s defense squeezed the attack and barely allowed a sniff of the goal. The visitors scored one goal in the opening period when freshman attacker Sydney Taylor’s stick was hit on a free-position shot and the wonky flight path dribbled past Gators senior goalie Sarah Reznick.
Despite a seven-goal advantage, Florida kept its intensity, playing at full speed and finding the back of the net six more times in the second quarter. The Gators pressed hard, forcing five turnovers and suffocating the Monarchs.
Sophomore attacker Danielle Pavinelli made history in the second quarter. The Northport, New York, product assisted freshman Emma LoPinto for a goal, and that assist marked Pavinelli’s 100th point as a Gator, making her the 19th centurion in UF history.
Pavinelli made history, but LoPinto stole the show, scoring four goals and adding an assist, all while making the game look easy. Junior midfielder Emily Heller was a force as well, scoring a pair of unassisted goals and adding an assist.
“I think we were just rolling,” LoPinto said of the offense. “I think that everyone was fighting each other and I think that we just all got for each other and it was a lot of fun.”
Florida heavily rotated the lineup in the second half, giving ample playing time to the reserves. Sophomore backup goalie Julia Hammerschlag played the entire second half, while the likes of freshman Brie Catts and junior Madison Rielly saw significant action for the first time this season.
Even with mostly reserves on the field, Florida cruised past the Monarchs, outscoring the visitors 7-4 in the second half. While the Gators didn’t have the same execution as they did in the first half, it still proved to be too much for Old Dominion.
“Our players came off the bench and were just outstanding,” O’Leary said. “We saw a big team win right there.”
This was the most dominant defensive performance from the Gators all season. Florida allowed just two goals through three periods, and both came from free-position opportunities. Old Dominion scored a few late goals to make the final score look a little better, but by that point, Florida’s starters had long been on the bench.
The Gators continue conference play next Saturday at 12:30 p.m. with a road trip to Nashville, Tennessee, to challenge the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Contact Topher Adams at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Topher_Adams.
Topher Adams is a third-year journalism major and the football beat reporter for The Alligator. He also covered Florida lacrosse for the paper and loves watching college football and MLS soccer.