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Monday April 30, 2012 Gators hope out-of-towners feel the heat at American Lacrosse Conference Tournament

Updated: 5:30pm, April 30

Don Dizney Stadium

Don Dizney Stadium and that famous Florida heat could provide Gators a distinctive homefield advantage.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Johns Hopkins University lacrosse coach Janine Tucker brought the Blue Jays to town for the first and only time a year ago, so she knows what to expect later this week at Dizney Stadium.

That’s why Tucker is getting the message out to her players before the team leaves Baltimore for sunny Gainesville for this week’s American Lacrosse Conference Tournament.

“We are telling them to drink a lot of water, trying to hydrate ourselves in preparation for coming down to Florida,” Tucker said Monday. “They don’t call it The Swamp for nothing.”

Tucker told a story about how the heat impacted Johns Hopkins in a 14-10 loss to the Gators in April 2011. One of the Blue Jays needed medical assistance after the game due to hydration issues.

Memo to all out-of-town teams visiting Thursday through Saturday: Yes, it’s going to be hot.

The Weather Channel forecasts a high of 88 on Thursday and 90 on Friday and Saturday.

Amanda O'Leary

While those temperatures might raise a few eyebrows up North in early May, Gators coach Amanda O’Leary won’t blink an eye.

“The hotter the better,’’ O’Leary said. “The ability I think to play in these conditions certainly provides us with a home-field advantage just because of the heat and humidity.”

During a conversation with Penn State coaches this week, O’Leary said they told her about wearing winter coats and sweatpants during their final regular-season on Saturday at home. She offered some advice.

“You can leave those behind,’’ she said.

Florida closed the season with an 8-7 win on a chilly day at Northwestern on April 21, many of the players wearing long sleeves on the sideline to stay warm.

The good news for the visiting teams is that they all will have a practice in the steamy Florida sunshine before they play a game.

Penn State coach Missy Doherty doesn’t expect her team to have too much difficulty since the Nittany Lions played at Florida on April 14.

“You adjust to the conditions pretty quickly,’’ Doherty said. “It was definitely a hot day, pretty much what we expected.”

Besides the Gators, the only other team in the tournament that calls the South home is Vanderbilt. Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Penn State and Ohio State round out the field.

This marks the first time Florida, in its third-year as a program, has hosted the tournament. The Gators are 28-4 at home in their brief history.

Buckeyes coach Alexis Venechanos said she’ll keep her game plan flexible, in part because of potential heat issues.

“I guess will see when we get down there,’’ she said. “If the weather is a factor, we’ll adjust accordingly.”

Johns Hopkins played the Gators tough on a sunny afternoon in Baltimore earlier this season, losing 13-12 in double-overtime. But the conditions lacked the humidity that Florida offers.

“We are taking steps to use more bodies than less,’’ Tucker said. “I think we’re going to try and rotate more kids out there to give more kids breaks and to make sure everybody is able to get their legs under them and make certain we don’t have any heat issued medically.

“It’s just part of the game and something that we are preparing for. You can’t let it become a distraction.”

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