Special report on the Florida Gators lacrosse team:
PHILADELPHIA – A complete team effort led the University of Florida lacrosse team to an 18-8 victory over the Villanova Wildcats on Sunday afternoon, marking UF’s third consecutive win of 10 goals or more.
Villanova’s Christine Graziano scored the game’s first goal, before Florida quickly took control of the contest by way of a 10-1 run through the first 19 minutes of action. The Gators would force a running clock in the first half, taking a 14-4 lead into the locker room.
Seven different Gators scored at least one goal in the first half, led by four from junior midfielder Sydney Pirreca. Florida’s defense limited Villanova to just 12 first half shot attempts, with junior Haley Hicklen recording all five of her saves in the first 30 minutes.
Florida’s offense converted exactly half (18/36, .500) of its shots into goals, including a four-for-seven (.571) performance on free position shots.
Juniors Sydney Pirreca and Lindsey Ronbeck tied for a game-high four goals apiece, with Ronbeck’s five points leading all scorers. Grace Haus, Madisyn Kittell, and Shayna Pirreca each added two goals for the Gators.
The Gator defense held Villanova to a .364 (8/22) shooting clip, and only allowed three Wildcat starters to score a goal. Freshman Sabrina Cristodero limited Villlanova’s leading goal-scorer, Jillian Swikart, to two goals on five shot attempts; while senior Aniya Flanagan forced Ashley Lynch into three turnovers and only one goal.
Florida forced Villanova into 22 turnovers overall, marking the fifth game in a row that UF’s defense has caused an opponent to commit at least 19 turnovers.
Junior Haley Hicklen earned her 28th career victory in the cage, posting five saves and a .455 save percentage in 41:45 minutes of action. Hicklen has racked up 127 saves through 13 games this season. Senior Olivia Cole logged a season-high 18:15 minutes, making one save and collecting two ground balls to close the game.
Kavanagh Sets Draw Control Record
Freshman midfielder Shannon Kavanagh set a Florida lacrosse record by winning 12 draw controls against Villanova, breaking the previous record of 11 set by Mollie Stevens in 2017. The Gators were dominant in the draw circle as a team on Sunday, earning a 17-11 edge overall. Villanova entered Sunday’s game ranked second in the BIG EAST in draw controls, winning an average of 16.0 per contest.
No. 7 Florida: 10-3 (5-0)
Villanova: 6-6 (1-4)
* The Gators have now won 27 consecutive games against BIG EAST opponents dating back to the 2015 season.
* #PirrecaPower: Pirreca sisters Shayna and Sydney have combined to score 35% (73/206) of UF’s goals in 2018.
* Shayna Pirreca has scored a goal in 33 consecutive games, a Florida lacrosse record. Pirreca has also tallied a point in 35 straight outings, the fourth best mark in program history.
* Aniya Flanagan ranks sixth all-time at Florida with 56 caused turnovers in her career.
* Freshman defender Sabrina Cristodero scored the first goal of her career on a free position attempt in the second half.
“I’m extremely proud of how well the entire team competed today. Our energy level throughout the game was terrific and I think it showed. We were able to make substitutions early on in the first half and keep everyone’s legs fresh during the second half. Shannon (Kavanagh) did a great job for us in the draw circle, and helped us control possession of the ball for the whole game. We have a week to prepare before playing a really talented Marquette team next weekend.”
The Gators will welcome the Marquette Golden Eagles (9-4, 5-0) to Donald R. Dizney Stadium on April 14 in a battle for first place in the BIG EAST Conference.