Florida Gators lacrosse advances to AAC championship game

Special report on the Florida Gators lacrosse team:

CINCINNATI, Ohio – The No. 18 Florida women’s lacrosse team advanced to the American Athletic Conference Championship after defeating Vanderbilt 19-10 on Thursday evening.

The Gators will face the winner of the second semifinal between Cincinnati and Temple on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Sheakley Athletics Center.

Florida continues its quest for the program’s sixth-straight conference tournament championship and the eighth overall by the program.

Sydney Pirreca led the way for the Gator offense with a historic day, scoring five goals and six assists for a total of 11 points on the day. The 11 points tied the program record for the most in a single game, while the six assists set a new program record.

Grace Haus also scored a career-best five goals on the day and Shannon Kavanagh added four to secure the victory.

The Gators won 16 draws during the game, led by seven by Lindsey Ronbeck.

As a squad, Florida caused 10 turnovers, led by three from Cara Trombetta. Caroline May and Madi Hall each pitched in two caused turnovers on the day as well.

Haley Hicklen recorded seven saves throughout the game, finishing with a .438 saves percentage. With that victory, she picked up her 12th win of the season and the 47th of her career, just three wins away from tying the program record (Mikey Meagher, 50 wins).

How it Happened
Sydney Pirreca got the Gators on the board just one minute into the game on a pass from Lindsey Ronbeck, but just three minutes later Vanderbilt answered with the equalizer on a free-position attempt.

From that point on, Florida went on a 4-0 run beginning with a fast break goal from Ronbeck. That goal all started from a turnover caused by Cara Trombetta, which allowed Florida to get out to the fast break opportunity.

Caroline Benitez muscled the ball into the back of the net after receiving a pass from Pirreca to put Florida up 3-1. Shannon Kavanagh then scored back-to-back on passes from Pirreca – who scored four points before 11 minutes had run off the clock – to put Florida up 5-1.

Vanderbilt answered with three quick goals, cutting Florida’s lead to 5-4 with 13:16remaining in the first half but the Gators cut off the momentum by scoring three consecutive goals of their own. Grace Haus scored back-to-back goals – both from Pirreca – to put the Gators back ahead 7-4.

Pirreca then found the back of the net herself on a pass from Brianna Harris, putting the Gators up 8-4 with just over nine minutes remaining. That was the seventh point for Pirreca in just the first half.

Kavanagh followed with just a cannon of a free-position attempt, putting the Gators up 9-4 with 4:42 left in the first frame. Vanderbilt answered just 25 seconds later to come within four goals at 9-5, but Kavanagh once again buried one from the 8-meter to put the Gators up 10-5.

Pirreca could not be stopped in the first half, tying her career-high eight points, just in the first frame. Ronbeck followed with a goal with just one second remaining in the second half, putting Florida up 12-5 going into the locker room.

Coming out of the half, Pirreca extended Florida’s lead to 13-5 on her fourth goal of the day, bringing her to a career-best nine points on the day.

Vanderbilt got one back with 27:54 remaining in the second half, but Haus notched her third and fourth goals of the game within one minute of each other to put Florida up 15-6. Pirreca assisted Haus on the first of the two goals, bringing her to 10 points on the day and 200 points for her career. That sixth assist was also a program-best record, surpassing Harris’s record of five earlier this season.

The milestones kept coming, with Ronbeck scoring her third goal of the day. With that goal, she became just the second Gator to score 300 points in their career (Shannon Gilroy – 320).

Pirreca tied Florida’s program record in points (11) with her fifth goal of the day, which was followed by Haus’s fifth goal of the game – a new career-high for the sophomore.

Madi Hall got in on all of the scoring action, posting her first goal of the day with 11:40remaining in the game before Vanderbilt pulled back within 10 goals with 9:15remaining. The Commodores would tack on one more goal, but Florida secured the victory and a spot in the American Athletic Conference Tournament championship on Saturday.

No. 18 Florida (12-6, 5-0)
Vanderbilt (10-6, 2-3)
O’Leary’s Insight
On success on the road

–         “For us, it is just another game. Our success on the road is indicative of the work that this team puts in on the road to get here.”

*        With her six assists on the day, Sydney Pirreca set a new record for most assists in a single game

*        Pirreca totaled 11 points, pushing her past the 200 career point mark – that makes her just the seventh Gator to reach that milestone

o   The 11 points was also a career-best mark for the senior

*        Lindsey Ronbeck became just the second Gator to eclipse 300 career points, scoring four on the day

*        With today’s win, Florida moves closer to clinching its sixth-straight conference tournament championship and eighth overall

*        Shannon Kavanagh scored four goals against Vanderbilt, putting her at 94 for her career

o   She is on pace for 100 goals this season, becoming just the 12th Florida player to hit that mark

o   If she records 100 goals this year, she will be just the second Gator to hit the milestone by the end of their second year

*        Grace Haus registered five points on the day, moving her to 93 points in her career

o   She is looking to hit the 100 point mark this season

o   She would be just the 17th Gator to hit the milestone and seventh to do so in their first two years

*        Streaking: Haley Hicklen has recorded a save in 44-straight games, the second-best mark in program history.

*        Streaking: Lindsey Ronbeck has also scored at least one goal in 29-straight games, the third-best mark in program history

*        Streaking: Shannon Kavanagh is now tied with Sabrina Cristodero for Florida’s streak for consecutive games with a draw control, recording one in 31-straight games.

Up Next

–         The Gators face the winner of semifinal No. 2 between Temple and Cincinnati on Saturday

–         Opening draw is set for 1 p.m. at Sheakley Athletics Center

–         The game will be streamed on the American Digital Network

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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.