Special report on the Florida Gators lacrosse team
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A career high five goals for junior midfielder Mollie Stevens and a balanced Gators attack guided the No. 7 Florida lacrosse squad to a 15-6 season-opening win against No. 13 Loyola Saturday afternoon at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. WATCH: Florida vs. Loyola Highlights<https://t.co/i2KATJotH5> | Postgame Interviews - Amanda O'Leary and Mollie Stevens<http://floridagators.com/watch/?Archive=3682> Eight players found the back of the net in UF's first ranked victory of the season -- compared to three scorers for Loyola -- as the Orange and Blue moved to 4-0 all-time against the Greyhounds, controlling much of the game after Loyola got on the board first. After a 2-2 tie, Florida took the reins for an 8-4 lead at the half. UF stretched the lead to nine goals and a 14-5 advantage with 13:14 left in the second on Stevens' fifth score. Seniors Lauren Lea (2) and Carly Ross (2) both had multiple-goal outings, as did sophomore Shayna Pirreca (2). Junior Sammi Burgess tied a career high with three assists and notably, junior defender Taylor Bresnahan netted just her fourth career score to take UF up 6-2 in the first period. Although a veteran-led squad with 10 seniors, the Gators saw quality minutes from newcomers Sydney Pirreca, who scored her first career goal in the second period, and Lindsey Ronbeck. Senior starting goalie Mary-Sean Wilcox picked up the win after three saves in the first period, and freshman goalkeeper Haley Hicklen notched her first two collegiate saves with a stellar second half in the cage. Freshman defender Caroline Benitez also played in her first Gator game. THE RECORDS Florida: 1-0 Loyola: 0-1 NUMBERS OF NOTE * 97: wins for Florida head coach Amanda O'Leary at the helm of the Gator program. O'Leary, the fifth-winningest active Division I coach in the country, is now just three wins shy of her 100th victory at Florida * 27: shots on goal for Florida, compared to just 11 for Loyola. The Gators out-scored the Greyhounds 7-2 in the second period * 26: straight games with a goal for junior Mollie Stevens who scored a career high five to lead UF offensively Saturday. Stevens additionally added three draw controls against the Greyhounds * 6: ranked games for Florida in the non-conference schedule, with No. 13 Loyola being the first * 3: season-opening wins for the Gators in program history. Saturday marked just the second time Florida has opened with a team other than North Carolina (2010, Jacksonville) * 2: the magic number for UF defensively: Caroline Fitzgerald, Aniya Flanagan, Nicole Graziano and Lindsey Ronbeck each caused two turnovers contributing to Loyola's 14 in the game. Fitzgerald and Graziano both scooped up three ground balls as well * 2: freshmen earned their first career starts at Florida: Sydney Pirreca and Lindsey Ronbeck O'LEARY ANALYSIS "I thought we were very balanced today on the offensive end, and we did some nice things defensively. We saw some great things on both ends of the field and the players did a really good job executing the game plan. We did have some bumps along the way -- there are always things to fine tune and improve on -- but this is a pretty good place to start." (MOLLIE) STEVENS SPEAKS On the passing and assists Saturday: "It shows how good our chemistry is and how well we play together. We look for each other, it's not just a one-man show. It shows we really have chemistry this year and that's going to take us far." On the freshmen: "Outstanding. They played really well; you couldn't even tell that they are freshmen." UP NEXT The Orange and Blue will continue a three-game home stand to open the 2016 season. Florida will host Michigan Feb. 13 at 1 p.m. and the Wales National Team in Thursday action Feb. 18 at 4 p.m. before its first road trip to No. 2 North Carolina Feb. 20. The first 100 fans at the Gators-Wolverines game who show their Feb. 12 gymnastics ticket OR wear their Link to Pink t-shirt will receive a voucher for a free bag of popcorn. Fans will also have the opportunity to win a Valentine's Date Night special, which includes a FLAX prize pack, a dozen roses and a $50 gift card to Ballyhoo Grill in Gainesville.