Special report on the Florida Gators lacrosse team:
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Leading from wire-to-wire, the University of Florida lacrosse team (4-1) came out firing on all cylinders in the first half and thrashed No. 3 North Carolina (3-2), 17-10 in Chapel Hill on Saturday. The Gators have now earned victories in each of their last two trips to Chapel Hill.
Florida opened up a 7-2 lead with just under eight minutes left to play in the first half, ultimately taking a 9-5 lead into the locker room at halftime.
North Carolina was never able to cut the Florida lead to less than three goals after UF’s flurry to open the game, with the Gators twice jumping to an eight-goal edge.
The Gator defense smothered the Tar Heels from the opening draw, limiting UNC to a season-low 10 goals. Junior goalkeeper Haley Hicklen set a Florida single-game record by saving 16 goals while facing 39 shot attempts.
11 goals from Shayna Pirreca (career-high six) and Lindsey Ronbeck (five) fueled UF’s offensive attack. Freshman Sabrina Cristodero was impressive on the defensive end of the field, shadowing UNC’s Marie McCool and limiting her to a .364 (4-11) shooting performance.
Junior midfielders Madi Hall and Sydney Pirreca each chipped in two goals; with Pirreca winning a team-high three draw controls.
Defensively, Aniya Flanagan tied her career-high with four caused turnovers and set a new career-high with five ground balls. Caroline Benitez turned in a career-high three caused turnovers, and tacked on two ground balls and a goal while splitting time both as a defender and in the midfield.
Haley Hicklen was a force in the cage, turning in a .615 save percentage to go along with her record 16 saves. The Baltimore native has posted at least 10 saves in all five games of the 2018 season (65 total). She sits just 10 saves shy of second place all-time at Florida.
Florida’s defensive unit was outstanding against the Tar Heels, limiting UNC to a paltry 10-39 (.256) shooting performance while forcing 12 turnovers. The Gators’ top three defenders each did their part against North Carolina’s offensive threats:
* Sabrina Cristodero – Marie McCool (4-11, one turnover)
* Aniya Flanagan – Jamie Ortega (2-7, three points)
* Cara Trombetta – Ela Hazar (0-4, three turnovers)
No. 4 Florida: 4-1 (0-0)
No. 3 North Carolina: 3-2 (0-0)
* Saturday’s win marks UF’s eighth over a top-three ranked opponent all-time.
* Head Coach Amanda O’Leary is looking to become just the fifth coach in the history of Division I women’s lacrosse to win 300 games in her career. O’Leary is currently 297-98 in 23 seasons as a head coach.
* Haley Hicklen needs just 10 saves to move into second place all-time at Florida.
* #PirrecaPower: Pirreca sisters Shayna and Sydney have combined to score 38% (30/80) of UF’s goals in 2018.
“I am incredibly proud of this group for their effort and enthusiasm today. To play at North Carolina and come away with a win is a great milestone for this team. We did a terrific job starting the game focused and ready to play. Haley (Hicklen) was phenomenal in the cage today. It was a complete and total team victory.”
The Gators wrap up a stretch of four games in 11 days on Wednesday, with a road test at No. 5 Syracuse (3-0) set for 2 p.m.