Friday January 13, 2012Florida Lacrosse Has Sights Set on Surpassing Spectacular Sophomore Success in 2012
The University of Florida lacrosse team returns to action on Jan. 26 with the goal of elevating the young program to yet a higher level. The Gators are coming off a phenomenal sophomore season, where they rose from a young squad with untapped potential to one of the nation’s elite in just one year.
In 2011, Florida became the fastest program in poll history to enter the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) top 10, and on April 25, 2011, became the highest-ranked second-year program ever at No. 2. The Gators achieved such a high ranking after knocking off then-No. 2 Northwestern on April 14, securing Florida at least a share of the American Lacrosse Conference (ALC) regular-season title and handing the Wildcats their first ALC regular-season loss since 2004. UF then went on to defeat No. 17 Vanderbilt, 8-7, on April 17 to finish a perfect 5-0 in conference play and capture its first ALC regular-season title.
After reaching their first ever ALC Championship game, (L, 10-9 to Northwestern), the Gators earned their first ever NCAA Tournament bid, and on May 14, hosted No. 7 Stanford in the first ever NCAA Tournament game to be held in the state of Florida. UF rolled past the Cardinal, 13-11, before the epic 2011 season finally came to a close with a 13-9 loss to No. 5 Duke. Florida finished the year ranked No. 5 in the IWLCA Final Poll.
The Gators hope to continue their success in 2012, as they return All-Americans Kitty Cullen (Rockville, Md.), Sam Farrell (Millersville, Md.) and Ashley Bruns (Ellicott City, Md.), along with 2011 Second-Team All-ALC selections Haydon Judge (Chestertown, Md.) and Mikey Meagher (Liverpool, N.Y.). Additionally, 2011 ALC Coach of the Year Amanda O’Leary returns for her third season at the helm of the Florida lacrosse team, assisted by U.S. National Team members Erica LaGrow and Caitlyn McFadden.
Florida returns 17 players from 2011, including 11 starters, while bringing in the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation, according to Inside Lacrosse Magazine. Four new Gators were named to IL’s top-25 list; No. 6 Shannon Gilroy (Huntington, N.Y.), No. 12 Nicole Graziano (Mendham, N.J.), No. 15 Nora Barry (Marcellus, N.Y.) and No. 18 Sally Jentis (Ridgewood, N.J.); all of whom are expected to see significant playing time in 2012. Additionally, Taylor McCord (Jacksonville, Fla.) was named to the Freshman Watch List. The Gators also welcome freshmen Mikki Offit (Bethesda, Md.) and Maegan Meritz (Farmingdale, N.Y.), along with junior attacker Gabi Wiegand (Bay Shore, N.Y.), a transfer from the University of Richmond.
The 2012 Gators, ranked No. 5 in the Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Poll, will have their work cut out for them with the difficult spring schedule. In addition to the challenging ALC slate, UF has seven opponents that are ranked in the preseason poll, including road games at No. 1 Northwestern and No. 3 North Carolina. Florida will then play the five teams ranked No. 13 through 17, who are, in order, Dartmouth, Syracuse, Penn State, Vanderbilt and Georgetown.
“We have put together a schedule which will test our team throughout the season,” O’Leary said. “We will host England in our first international contest and hopefully that will prepare us for a very tough UNC team. It is critical our non-conference competition ready us for strong conference play. Having the opportunity to play teams who are the best of the best is exciting and I am looking forward to the start of the season.”
Florida begins the year by hosting an exhibition game against the England National Team on Jan. 26. England has reached at least the semifinals of every Women’s World Cup since 1989, including back-to-back runner-up finishes in 1989 and 1993; Coach O’Leary was a member of the United States teams that defeated England in the finals both times. Assistants LaGrow and McFadden also faced England in a World Cup, winning 20-3 in the 2009 semifinals en route to World Cup gold.
The Gators then open the regular season on the road at No. 3 North Carolina on Feb. 11. Florida, who is 0-2 against the Tar Heels, will be looking to avenge its 2011 season-opening 10-9 overtime loss to the eventual national semifinalists. UF then returns home to face in-state foe Jacksonville on Feb. 15 in the “Battle of the McCords,” as the Dolphins are coached by Mindy and Paul McCord, parents of Gator freshman Taylor.
Florida takes to the road on Feb. 19 to face UMBC, before returning home on Feb. 24 to open a three-game homestand against Siena, Detroit Mercy and No. 14 Syracuse, the 2011 BIG EAST regular-season champion. The Gators will head to the nation’s capital on Wednesday, March 7, to take on No. 17 Georgetown in their only mid-week road trip, before coming back to Gainesville to host Temple and Stony Brook.
The Gators will travel to Williamsburg, Va., on Saint Patrick’s Day to take on William & Mary in their final non-conference road game, then return to Dizney Stadium to host 2011 Ivy League Co-Champion No. 13 Dartmouth.
The Orange and Blue will begin conference play in Columbus on March 24, as they take on Ohio State in their ALC lid-lifter, before facing Fresno State at home on March 28 in their final non-conference game of the season. UF will then finish out the ALC slate by hosting No. 15 Penn State (Apr. 1) and No. 16 Vanderbilt (Apr.14), and travelling to Johns Hopkins on Apr. 7 and the defending National Champion No. 1 Northwestern on Apr. 21.
On May 3-5, the Gators will host the sixth-annual American Lacrosse Conference Championship. All six conference members will earn a bid to the tournament, seeded according to the regular-season standings, with the top two teams earning a first-round bye. There will be two quarterfinal games on Thursday, two semifinals on Friday, with the two games starting at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. each day. The ALC Championship game will then be on Saturday, May 5, at 12:30 p.m. Note: it is the same weekend as University of Florida graduation, so all out-of-town fans and media planning to attend should make travel arrangements as soon as possible.
For the complete 2012 schedule, visit: http://www.gatorzone.com/schedule.php?sport=lacro.