Special report on the Florida Gators lacrosse team:
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida is the only team at the top of the final BIG EAST standings, thanks to a 23-3 win over Butler on a perfect Saturday afternoon at the Donald R. Dizney Stadium. This was the Gators’ fourth-straight regular season BIG EAST title.
It was UF’s 31st consecutive BIG EAST win, dating back to the 2015 season.
Florida’s hot start put the team up 15-0 in the first half, with 10 Gators finding the back of the net. Sydney Pirreca scored her first goal of the game less than 30 seconds into the frame and UF rolled from there.
Shayna Pirreca and Grace Haus both notched hat tricks in the first half and with Shayna Pirreca’s three goals she reached 200 points in her career, becoming just the sixth Gator to do so.
The other seven Gators to earn their spot in the first half-scoring column were: Lindsey Ronbeck (1), Caroline Benitez (1), Shannon Kavanagh (1), Madi Hall (1), Madisyn Kittell (1), Eddy Shoop (1) and Alix Lopez (1).
Butler got on the board in the final minute of the first half on a goal by Madeline Hooks, cutting Florida’s lead to 14 goals going into the second frame.
The Gators once again had all the momentum in the second half, outscoring the Bulldogs 8-2 in the frame. Sabrina Cristodero scored her second career goal just 15 seconds out of the half, followed by Madisyn Kittell’s behind-the-back goal just over two minutes later.
The Bulldogs got one back with 23:30 to go in the game, but Florida went on a 6-0 run over the course of the next 19 minutes to hold the commanding lead. Allie Pavinelli, Jillian Alonso, Shannon Kavanagh, Paige Aldave and Morgan Bracken found the back of the net for the Gators during that run. That goal by Bracken was just the fourth of her career and the first of this season, coming on her senior day.
Seventeen Gators recorded at least one point in the game and 10 Florida players recorded a multi-point game. Shayna Pirreca, Grace Haus, Shannon Kavanagh, Sydney Pirreca and Madisyn Kittell all tallied three points for the Gators en route to the victory.
Junior Haley Hicklen earned her 32nd career victory in the cage, posting one save in 17:56 minutes of action. Hicklen has racked up 143 saves through 17 games this season.
On senior day, Olivia Cole netted a career-high 32:37 minutes in the goal and recorded two saves overall.
Sophomore Kenzii Kittell also logged 9:27 in the game, picking up one ground ball and causing one turnover.
Florida won 20-of-27 (.741) draw controls on the day and scored on 23 of their 42 shots, good for a .548 shooting clip. The Gators held the Bulldogs to a .300 shooting clip (3-of-10) and notched three saves throughout the game.
UF converted on three of their 10 free position attempts and forced Butler into 17 turnovers to earn the decision and to become sole champions of the BIG EAST.
Florida celebrated the careers of its six-member senior class – Shayna Pirreca, Allie Pavinelli, Aniya Flanagan, Katharine Hamer, Morgan Bracken and Olivia Cole – Saturday in a pre-game ceremony.
The class owns a 64-14 (0.821) record over its four years, which includes four consecutive BIG EAST regular-season and tournament titles. The Gators have advanced to NCAA Tournament play each year of the 2018 Gator senior class career.
No. 6 Florida: 14-3 (9-0 BIG EAST)
Butler: 1-16 (0-9 BIG EAST)
* The Gators have now won 31 consecutive games against BIG EAST opponents dating back to the 2015 season.
* Florida won the BIG EAST title outright, the team’s fourth consecutive regular season championship
* #PirrecaPower: Pirreca sisters Shayna and Sydney have combined to score 33% (94/285) of UF’s goals in 2018.
* Shayna Pirreca has scored a goal in 37 consecutive games, a Florida lacrosse record. Pirreca has also tallied a point in 39 straight outings, the fourth best mark in program history.
On today’s performance and winning the BIG EAST outright:
“Obviously we are very excited to win the BIG EAST regular season title – it was one of this team’s goals from day 1, so being able to accomplish that goal says a lot about this team’s fight and work ethic. They put in the work to accomplish that goal and I am very proud of them. We have some work ahead of us with the conference championship coming up next week, but very proud of what they have done thus far.”
On hosting the conference tournament:
“It is certainly nice to be able to host. Playing in front of our home crowd is something we always look forward to. They provide a lot of momentum and it is always upbeat. Our fans are always upbeat and it is going to be a great time for all of us. There is so much parity among the teams in the BIG EAST right now, so it is very exciting and I am really looking forward to hosting.”
Shayna Pirreca’s Take:
On today’s game:
“It was an emotional day for all of us with it being Senior Day. Our mentality going into the game was to have fun and appreciate each other. We are trying to appreciate every game we have left playing with one another.”
On reaching 200 career points:
“It was really special, especially with it being Senior Day. My teammates were all so supportive and they made it even better.”
On hosting tournament:
“It is great for us not to have to travel because we get to stick to our own routine. It gives us more time to focus up on what we have to do.”
The Gators play host to the BIG EAST Tournament action next week.