Sydney Pirreca

Florida midfielder Sydney Pirreca scored six goals against Maryland last season. The Gators play the Terrapins on Thursday at 7 p.m.

 

Seniors on the Florida lacrosse team have played Maryland three times throughout their collegiate careers.

They have never won.

The Gators will have the opportunity to change that when No. 4 Florida hosts No. 2 Maryland at Donald R. Dizney Stadium on Thursday night at 7.

The games between the two women’s lacrosse powerhouses in 2016 and 2017 were not close, with the Gators losing 14-4 and 18-8, respectively.

In 2018, UF went goal-for-goal with the then-top-ranked Terrapins. Although it lost 16-14, the juniors on the team made their presence felt.

Midfielder Sydney Pirreca led Florida with six goals and two assists that day. Her eight points were the most in a game by a Gator since Shannon Gilroy did it twice in 2015.

Attacker Lindsey Ronbeck scored a hat trick, and goalkeeper Haley Hicklen posted 14 saves, tying her career-high for saves in a single game.

Pirreca, Ronbeck and Hicklen, now seniors, will need to perform at that same level on Thursday to finally defeat the Terps.

Maryland is coming off a 16-5 win against George Mason on Saturday behind five goals and one assist from senior midfielder Jen Giles. The 2018 IWLCA First Team All-American was a perfect 4-for-4 on free-position attempts.

Senior attacker Caroline Steele and junior attacker Kali Hartshorn chipped in with hat tricks of their own. Graduate student Erica Evans, who transferred from Canisius College, had two goals and two assists in her first game as a Terrapin.

The high-powered offense of the Terps will be a tough test for Florida’s defense, which has not allowed more than 10 goals  per game since its inaugural season in 2010.

Coach Amanda O’Leary turned to seniors Caroline May and Caroline Benitez to fill the void left by former defender Aniya Flanagan, inserting them into the starting lineup against Colorado on Saturday.

O’Leary will rely on May, Benitez and the rest of her senior class to defeat Maryland in Thursday’s home opener, and she knows that they have the ability to perform.

“That entire class — from top to bottom — has provided us with tremendous leadership, on and off the field,” O’Leary said. “That’s what you want from your seniors.”

Follow Bryan Matamoros on Twitter @bmatamoros_ and contact him at [email protected]