Florida Gators lacrosse advances to Elite 8

Special report on the Florida Gators lacrosse team:

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida is moving ahead to NCAA Quarterfinal action with its 13-9 win over No. 15 Colorado Sunday at the Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

The Gators now look for their second NCAA semifinal berth when it travels to Harrisonburg, Va., to face No. 3 seed James Madison. The Dukes were 15-12 winners over Virginia Sunday. Date and time for that game will be announced later tonight by the NCAA Lacrosse Committee.

Florida found itself down 5-0 less than six minutes into the game, but after a goal by freshman Grace Haus at the 22:31 mark, the Gators rolled on an 8-0 run. During the 8-0 Florida run, Pirreca Power was in full effect, with both Shayna Pirreca and Sydney Pirreca recording hat tricks. Freshman Shannon Kavanagh also pitched in a goal to round out the scoring run.

UF’s defense stifled the Buffs after the first six minutes of play, keeping them scoreless for the final 24:09 of the first half. Junior Haley Hicklen finished with 11 saves, including six in the first frame.

Shayna Pirreca started the first half with her fourth and final goal of the game, putting Florida up 9-6. Colorado pulled within one goal at 9-8, but the Gators went on 4-1 run to sure up the 13-9 victory.

During the course of that run Madi Hall, Grace Haus, Lindsey Ronbeck and Caroline Benitez scored for the Gators.

Hicklen earned her 35th career victory in the cage, posting 11 saves, with a .550 save percentage in 60:00 minutes of action. The 11 saves is her seventh double-digit save total of the season and she notched her 17th win of the year in net, just one win off tying Florida’s school record of most in a season (18).

Hicklen has racked up 166 saves through 20 games this season, which is a Florida program record for most saves in a single season.

Seven Gators scored en route to the 13-9 victory over Colorado: Shayna Pirreca (4), Sydney Pirreca (3), Grace Haus (2), Lindsey Ronbeck (1), Caroline Benitez (1), Shannon Kavanagh (1) and Madi Hall.

Three Gators added assists on the day, led by Sydney Pirreca’s two helpers. Caroline Benitez and Shannon Kavanagh each dished out one assist as well.

Florida caused six turnovers in the game, including two by freshman Sabrina Cristodero. The Gators held Colorado to 9-of-28 shooting and notched 11 saves throughout the game.

UF converted on four of its eight free position attempts to earn the decision and earn its first trip to the NCAA Quarterfinals since the 2014 season.

The Gators are now 8-3 this season against ranked opponents, having won the last four-straight against foes in the Top-25. This game was UF’s seventh come-from-behind victory this season, with its last being against Denver on April 21. The five goal deficit was the second-most the Gators have dug themselves out of, with the largest hole being eight goals against Navy.

Records:

No. 6 Florida: 17-3 (9-0 BIG EAST)

Colorado: 14-6 (9-1 Pac-12)

Notable:

*         This is Florida’s fifth time advancing to NCAA Quarterfinals in program history and the first time since 2014

*         The Gators exit the BIG EAST on a 33 consecutive game win streak. The streak began in the 2015 season and is a school record for consecutive league wins.

*         In an eight-day span, Florida collected a pair of BIG EAST titles. On April 28, Florida won the BIG EAST regular-season title with a 9-0 record. Today, Florida won its fifth consecutive conference tournament title. Florida has won the last four BIG EAST Tournament titles and claimed the final American Lacrosse Conference crown in 2015.

*         #PirrecaPower: Pirreca sisters Shayna and Sydney have combined to score 34% (113/335) of UF’s goals in 2018.

*         Shayna Pirreca has scored a goal in 40 consecutive games, a Florida lacrosse record. Pirreca has also tallied a point in 42 straight outings, the third best mark in program history.

O’Leary’s Insight
On getting the second round win:
“It is fantastic, that is exactly what this team has been working toward all year long. All their hard work has come to fruition – though it is not over yet. We still have a big game in front of us with James Madison, but the team worked incredible hard and I am so proud of them. They followed the game plan and it is a great group to coach. I am honored to be a part of this.”

On being down five goals:
“Defensively we were a little off, but once we started picking up our marks and playing team defense, it picked up immediately.”

On Haley’s play:
“Haley’s play today was huge. Both goalies today are tremendous, both Tewaaraton nominees, which is a huge honor. Haley played lights out today and I am just so proud of her. You can’t ask for much more than what she gave us today.”

On facing JMU:
“We’ve never played them, so it will be very interesting for us. They have a Tewaaraton finalist, so we are going to get in there and watch some film immediately.”

Up Next:

NCAA Quarterfinal action takes place next weekend at campus sites.

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Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.