Florida Gators lacrosse clinches Big East regular season championship

Special report on the Florida Gators lacrosse team:
DENVER – In the high elevation and snowy conditions of the Colorado Rockies, the Florida Lacrosse team defeated the Denver University Pioneers 18-13 on Saturday to remain unbeaten in BIG EAST action. With the victory, the Gators clinched their fourth straight BIG EAST regular season championship and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming BIG EAST Tournament.

The game started exactly as Florida wanted it to with a goal in less than a minute when Pirreca Power was put on full display as Shayna Pirreca found her sister Sydney Pirreca to put the Gators up early. Florida continued to score early and often in the first-half as both Lindsey Ronbeck and Grace Haus scored to make it 3-0 Gators. Moments later the Gator lead was extended to six with goals from Sydney, Shannon Kavanagh, and Carolina Benitez.

Florida held Denver scoreless for the first 16 minutes of the half and had a 6-0 lead when Denver began to find the back of the net, scoring three goals within two minutes of the each other. The Pioneers continued to push the pace the rest of the half, scoring four more goals and taking a 7-6 lead with 2 minutes left in the half. As the period was coming to a close senior Allie Pavinelli ended the Gators 16 minute scoring drought to tie the game at seven with 0.7 seconds left in the half.

The Gators opened the second-half on a furious rally as Haus, Ronbeck, and Benitez, each scored their second goals of the afternoon within the first three minutes of the second half to open up a 10-7 lead.

Denver brought the game to within a goal after scoring two quick goals to end the Gators run but Florida wasted little time extending the lead with goals from Kavanagh, Shayna Pirreca, and Sydney. When Denver cut the Gators lead to 13-11 Ronbeck scored twice and Shayne once to give the Gators a 16-11 lead late in the period. The Pioneers were able to score two straight with under five minutes left in the game when Sydney and Ronbeck each scored again to put the game away and give Florida an 18-13 victory.

No. 6 Florida: 13-3 (8-0 BIG EAST)
Denver: 10-5 (5-3 BIG EAST)

Gator Notables:
* This is the Gators eighth straight overall conference championship. Florida won four in a row (2011-14) as members of the American Lacrosse Conference and the last four as members of the BIG EAST
*The Gators have now won 30 consecutive games against BIG EAST opponents dating back to the 2015 season
* Florida improved to 6-0 all-time against Denver and 1-0 when playing the Rockies
* Sydney Pirreca became the 11th Gator to score 100 career goals with her second goal in the first-half
* Florida has had multiple hat tricks in 14 of 16 games this season, including six straight
* Shayna Pirreca has scored a goal in 38 consecutive games, a Florida lacrosse record. Pirreca has also tallied a point in 36 straight outings, the fourth-best mark in program history
*Junior goalkeeper Haley Hicklen picked up a ground ball in the first half, extending her streak to a Florida record of 33 consecutive games
* Gator Hat Tricks: Ronbeck (5), Sydney Pirreca (4)
* Ronbeck has scored at least five goals three different times this season
* Hicklen led the Gators in ground balls with 3
* Kavanagh led the Gators in draw controls with 11
* Gator Goal Scorers: Sydney Pirreca, Lindsey Ronbeck, Grace Haus, Shannon Kavanagh, Carolina Benitez, Allie Pavinelli
* Hicklen recorded seven saves. She now has 142 on the year and 346 in her career
* Hicklen recorded a ground ball in the first-half and has now had a ground ball in 33 straight games, a Florida record
* Cara Trombetta recorded a game-high four caused turnovers
* Sabrina Cristodero recorded eight draw controls
* Florida out shot Denver 32-28
* The Gators had 21 draw controls to the Pioneers 11
* Florida was 9-for-14 in free position shots

O’Leary’s Insight:
“A very hard fought game by both teams. Every time we went on a roll Denver answered back so credit to them. We did a good job in the second half making adjustments at both ends of the field. It was a very competitive game which will help us prepare for the rest of the season.”

“All around great effort today by the entire team. The scoring was equally distributed. I thought we moved the ball well to find the free player. Defensively we did a very good job as an entire unit. Shannon and Sabrina were outstanding on the draw.”

Up Next
Florida will be back in Gainesville to close out the 2018 regular season on Saturday, April 28. The Gators will host the Butler Bulldogs at noon while honoring the team’s six seniors prior to the start of the match.

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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.