Lacrosse: UF drops opener at UNC

North Carolina midfielder Kara Cannizzaro received a pass in the middle of the arc with only four seconds remaining in the first half.

She took a step right, spun to the left and shot around a Florida defender as the clock expired. The shot went to the far post and found the back of the net to cap off the Tar Heels’ four-goal run in the half.

Cannizzaro’s four goals helped ignite No. 3 North Carolina’s en route to an 11-9 win against the No. 4 Florida Gators in Friday’s season opener for both teams. On the other hand, this isn’t exactly how UF coach Amanda O’Leary wanted the Gators to begin the programs third season.

On a cold, muggy day in Chapel Hill, N.C., the Gators seemed to get off to a quick start by getting an early 2-0 lead. Through sloppy possessions from Florida though, North Carolina was able to control the rest of the first half and go into the locker room with a comfortable 7-3 lead.

After a few resurgences by Florida, North Carolina was able to hinder Florida’s efforts and kill their momentum by controlling the ball for majority of the game.

The reigning American Lacrosse Conference player of the year, junior Kitty Cullen, did all she could do for the Gators. She scored three goals and tallied one assist, while having seven shots with six of them being on target. When Cullen has a chance to shoot, she will take it because Cullen is looking to improve upon her 77-goal performance last season, which was the second most in the country.

One word to define this game would be physical. Every draw control was hard and fought out by each and every player. North Carolina was able to win in that department by having 13 draw controls when Florida only had eight, which led to the Tar Heels’ domination of possession.

On top of that, there was a total of 61 fouls in the game. There were also six yellow cards given out in the game, which now factors in much more this season because the new rule is if you get a yellow card you have to sit out two minutes. Both Florida and North Carolina scored twice while having to play with one more person on the field, or also known as a “Man-Up” situation. The only difference though is that North Carolina only had two chances compared to Florida’s four chances. It was a crucial missed opportunity by the Gators.

Surprisingly, Florida recorded 25 shots on goal, which was five more than UNC in the game. The Gators kept on coming at North Carolina shot after shot, but they couldn’t capitalize like North Carolina did.

Goalie play was ultimately what won and lost this game for both teams. Florida started off with junior Mikey Meagher in goal, but O’Leary tried to change it up by putting in junior Cara Canington for the second half. Overall, both Florida goalies combined for three saves in the entire game.

The Tar Heels’ goalie Lauren Maksyum was ranked 15th in the nation last season in save percentage, and she didn’t miss a beat to begin the 2012 season. Maskyum recorded 10 saves compared to Florida’s three. Maskyum was able to hold off the fighting Gators by recording more saves than goals allowed.

This game was similar to when these two squared off last season. The Gators lost 10-9 in overtime at Chapel Hill. It was a physical game that accumulated more than 40 fouls, too. After losing their first game to UNC last year, the Gators went on a 14-game winning streak, so they are technically on the same track as the beginning of last season.

If they want the outcome of this season to be different from last season though, they need to beat these top-tier teams like North Carolina to fabricate a National Championship winning season.

The Gators will be looking to get their first win against Jacksonville University on Wednesday night when they have their home opener at Donald R. Dizney Field.

Follow Gator Country reporter Max Mattern on twitter @MaxMattern.