Amanda O'Leary

Coach Amanda O'Leary (center) was impressed with her freshmen in the Gators' season-opening game against Colorado. “It was exciting to see them get on the board early,” she said. 

Heading into the 2018 season, the biggest question facing the Gators was how they would replace the production of last year’s seniors.

Florida appears to have answered that question.

Although the team returned many key contributors from 2017’s Big East championship-winning squad, it lost its top two points leaders in Sammi Burgess and Mollie Stevens. The Gators knew they needed to replace that scoring prowess and, after one game, coach Amanda O’Leary seems to have found the solution in a class of talented freshmen.

Freshman attackers Kassidy Bresnahan and Grace Haus swiftly made their mark in the first half of Florida’s 16-9 home victory over Colorado on Sunday, combining to score four of UF’s first five goals.

“It was exciting to see them get on the board early,” O’Leary said.

Bresnahan, whose older sister, Taylor, was a senior on the team last year, scored two goals and an assist in the victory. Haus also had two goals and an assist. Both players started in the Gators’ season opener.

Freshman midfielder Shannon Kavanagh also started on Sunday, and O’Leary trusted her to take the majority of the draws. She won eight draw controls in the victory, facing off against Colorado’s Darby Kiernan. Kiernan led the Buffaloes in points, goals and assists a year ago, and her 120 draw controls in 2017 ranked 11th nationally. However, she was held to only one goal in the loss.

Kavanagh also had a goal and an assist for the Gators.

Junior midfielder Madi Hall was impressed by the contributions of the young players.

“They definitely stepped up,” she said after the game.

Freshman contributions in the game were not limited to the offensive side. Defender Sabrina Cristodero was matched up against one of Colorado’s best scorers, Miranda Stinson, for the entire game.

Stinson scored seven goals in the Buffaloes’ 20-10 victory over Michigan on Friday night, but scored only one goal on 10 shots in a losing effort against the Gators.

With No. 1 Maryland coming to town on Saturday, UF will need another strong performance from its freshmen.

Competing with the top-ranked Terrapins won’t be easy, but Hall believes the team’s newcomers have something to build on after a promising start to the season.

“I thought they did awesome,” she said. “They definitely need to keep that up.”

Follow Tyler Nettuno on Twitter @TylerNettuno and contact him at [email protected].

Tyler Nettuno is a sports writer for the Alligator and covers the University of Florida men's basketball team. He has previously covered UF golf and lacrosse. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2017.