It was a historic afternoon for the reigning AAC Player of the Year. Danielle Pavinelli, a Northport, New York, native’s season thus far has been nothing short of sensational. The sophomore broke into triple digits, scoring her 100th career goal to help the Gators advance to the quarterfinals.
“What she’s accomplished is due to all the hard work she puts in,” said Gators head coach Amanda O’Leary. “She comes to practice every day prepared, ready to go, gives her best and I think we’re seeing all of that come to fruition out on the field.
The No.7-seed Florida Gators lacrosse team defeated the Jacksonville Dolphins, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.
The Dolphins made sure the Gators win was not an easy picking as they came out at the start of each quarter applying pressure on Florida. Accompanied by an assist by midfielder Emily Heller, freshman Josie Hahn found the back of the net to give UF its first goal of the game.
However, graduate midfielder Megan Prescott scored for the Dolphins to make it 1-1 with 13:36 remaining in the first quarter. Coach O’Leary and the orange and blue would then end the first period on a 4-0 scoring spurt, highlighted by team ball movement.
“We talked about coming out in the first five minutes and I think that we did that today,” O’Leary said. “I thought we really stepped up, played hard, played well and got some draw controls early.”
In the first half, UF forced the tempo, resulting in high-octane scoring opportunities. Off a free position, midfielder Bella Palagonia gave Florida a 3-1 lead. The Gators were 3-for-5 on free positions.
Attacker Emma LoPinto’s offensive skill in her rookie season has already been acknowledged as top-level performer this year, being named AAC Freshman of the Year. But the Manhasset, New York, native’s, defensive efforts are nothing to sneeze at.
After Jacksonville regained possession from a Florida misfire, the freshman swooped in for the steal. The defensive maneuver initiated a sequence of great ball movement by the orange and blue.
On the fast break, LoPinto passed the yellow ball to Pavinelli before she found attacker Maggi Hall, cutting to the cage for an acrobatic score, up and around two Dolphins defenders to give the Gators a 4-1 lead.
With a 5-1 advantage heading into the second quarter, Jacksonville showed some life early. The Dolphins launched back-to-back shots between the pipes to cut the deficit, 5-3.
But the orange and blue pressed the issue even more. Florida went on a 5-1 scoring run in the second quarter.
With 7:28 in the second period, Pavinelli made the most of the Dolphins turnover, getting her third score of the afternoon and her 100th goal in her young Gator career.
Pavinelli, with now 102 goals on the year, recorded 11 shot attempts and five goals to put her in triple digits for a career.
The orange and blue headed into halftime with a 10-4 lead.
“I owe it all to my teammates, I couldn't have done without them,” said Pavinelli. “It means so much to me and every single person I played with on the field has done to get me there....”
In the second half, the Dolphins fought till the end. Jacksonville once again scored the first two goals in the third quarter but the orange and blue answered. Hall, a sophomore, found the back of the net off a free position play.
The Dolphins did manage to outscore the Gators in the period, though, leading 4-2. Pavinelli added her 102th career goal with 39.4 seconds remaining before the final quarter, but Jacksonville kept fighting to score their eighth tally past goalkeeper Sarah Reznick.
Reznick, a native of Long Beach, New York, defended the cage from 33 shots, registering 12 saves in the afternoon.
“She has lived up to every expectation and exceeded all expectations,” O’Leary said. “I think she’s not only a dominant player on the field, but just such a leader in the locker room off the field. You know, she’s really a special player.”
Now, a repeat performance from Reznick and the Gators is needed as they advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament to face off against two-seeded Maryland Terrapins.Florida fell 18-8 to Maryland on February 26th.
Opening draw between Florida and Maryland is set for Thursday, May 19th.
Curtis Michaud is a fourth-year student at the University of Florida within the College of Journalism and Communications. He specializes in sports and media and would like to continue to provide authentic, thorough, and engaging sport content for all readers. He is an enterprise reporter and lacrosse and track and field writer for The Alligator.