Florida Gators lacrosse takes over first place in the Big East

Special report on the Florida Gators lacrosse team:

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In a meeting between the last two undefeated teams in BIG EAST play, it’s Florida moving to a solo position at the top of the league leaderboard.

The Gators took a 18-6 win over Marquette Saturday afternoon at the Donald R. Dizney Stadium. It was Florida’s 28th consecutive BIG EAST win, dating back to the 2011 season.

Florida got out to a fast start against the Golden Eagles, scoring less than two minutes into the game. Shannon Kavanagh notched her first goal of the day on an unassisted score, putting the Gators up 1-0. Marquette answered with a goal of its own, but UF then went on a 10-0 run to garner an 11-1 lead and force a running clock.

The Gators ended the first half with all of the momentum and a 14-2 lead. Kavanagh and junior Sydney Pirreca each scored four goals in the first stanza, followed by two goals from senior Shayna Pirreca.

Juniors Lindsey Ronbeck and Caroline Benitez both tallied a goal in the first half to add to Florida’s 12-goal lead and freshmen Grace Haus and Eddy Shoop added their names to the scoring column as well – each scoring a goal in the frame.

The offensive firepower settled in the second half, scoring only four goals, but Shayna Pirreca earned a hat trick, notching her third goal of the game just under four minutes into the frame. Allie Pavinelli and Alix Lopez also found the back of the net to add to Florida’s second-half lead.

Kaitlyn Dabkowski scored the first goal of her Gator career in the second half on a pass from Lopez to close out the scoring for UF.

Eleven Gators recorded at least one point in the game and Kavanagh led the way with seven points. The Pirreca sisters, who both recorded four points in the game, followed Kavanagh. Ronbeck and Lopez rounded out the Gators who notched a multi-point game.

Junior Haley Hicklen earned her 29th career victory in the cage, posting four saves and a .667 save percentage in 30:00 minutes of action. Hicklen has racked up 131 saves through 14 games this season. Sophomore Kenzii Kittell logged a season-high 15:33 minutes, making one save to close the game.

Florida won 18-of-26 draw controls on the day scored on 18 of their 30 shots, good for a .600 shooting clip. The Gators held the Golden Eagles to a .316 shooting clip (6-of-19) and notched seven saves throughout the game.

UF converted on five of their seven free position attempts and forced Marquette into 10 turnovers to earn the decision and to move into sole possession of first place in the BIG EAST.

Records:

No. 6 Florida: 11-3 (6-0 BIG EAST)

Marquette: 9-5 (5-1 BIG EAST)

Notable:

* The Gators have now won 28 consecutive games against BIG EAST opponents dating back to the 2015 season.

* #PirrecaPower: Pirreca sisters Shayna and Sydney have combined to score 36% (80/224) of UF’s goals in 2018.

* Shayna Pirreca has scored a goal in 34 consecutive games, a Florida lacrosse record. Pirreca has also tallied a point in 36 straight outings, the fourth best mark in program history.

* Freshman midfielder Kaitlyn Dabkowski scored her first career goal as a Gator, finding the back of the net in the second half.

* Junior goalkeeper Haley Hicklen picked up a ground ball in the first half, extending her streak to a Florida record of 31 consecutive games with a GB.

O’Leary’s Insight:
On today’s performance:
“We talk about it all the time about getting out of the locker room fast and I think we did that. Our team played well offensively. They shared the ball, took opportunities that were afforded them so really, really proud of this team. They executed the A-plan defensively and I thought Haley [Hicklen], OC [Olivia Cole] and Kenzii [Kittell] did great in the goal. So top to bottom, really pleased with this effort today.”

“We knew they had a really strong offensive team. They came in and played really hard. [Grace] Gabriel is one of their best attackers. Unfortunately, she yellow-carded out of the game so I think that took away some of their momentum, especially on the draw. I think we built upon that.

Got a top-25 match-up among next weekend’s two-game road trip. Will the many players appearing today help with that effort coming up?
“We are looking at a long week ahead as we go to Cincinnati and then directly to [No. 25] Denver. It’s a long week ahead so it was good for some starters to get a break. But it is also good to see some players who typically don’t get in and see what they can do. I was really impressed. They worked hard and did a great job out there.”

What is the key to keep the team focused and building off a big win like this?
“I think it is momentum and confidence. Each game we need to go in with that level of confidence coming out of the locker room and playing a 60-minute game. I thought we did that today. I think they felt that and we can continue with that.”

Up Next

The Gators pack their bags for a 3,700-mile road trip to face a pair of BIG EAST opponents.

Florida is at Cincinnati on Wednesday for a noon match-up with the Bearcats. Follow the action on the Bearcats TV stream.

Then Florida will meet No. 25 Denver in the Mile High City. That game is a 2 p.m. ET start on Saturday. Pioneer Vision will have the video stream.

Previous articleGator Walk for Orange and Blue game 2018: Photo gallery
Next articleOrange defeats Blue 35-30 in Florida Gators spring game
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.