I'll come right out of the gate and be honest. I only went to two Florida Gator lacrosse games the entire year. The first involved me and my friend freezing in 45º weather as rain descended upon us in a blowout win over Jacksonville. The second game I went to was against James Madison. The weather was much better this game but I think I still left before the half because I primarily came for a free shirt. Despite my very poor attendance, I still did my best to keep up with the progress and results of the Gator women's lax team throughout the season.
The team sported an 18-3 record during the year and ripped off two separate winning streaks of both 8 and 10 games. They won the regular season American Lacrosse Conference title for the fourth straight year in the young program's history as well as their second ALC tournament championship. With the ALC falling apart due to conference realignment issues, Florida will become a member of the Big East conference (which still exists in lacrosse) in the 2015 season.
In the NCAA Tournament, a familiar ALC foe in Northwestern eliminated the Gators in the quarterfinals in a 12-11 contest that required overtime. This was the third meeting between these two squads and all three of the games were decided by one point.
I believe that the Gators were at a disadvantage entering this game as they had already beaten Northwestern twice before. Losing by just one point in both those games (one being the ALC Championship) meant that Northwestern would eventually be due for a win. Unfortunately for the Gators, it came during the biggest game of the season. If it makes anything better, however, I will also mention that Northwestern would go on to lose to the eventual National Champion Maryland Terrapins.
Now, here are the Gator lax players who led the way in these respective stat categories:
Goals: Shannon Gilroy (86) (Junior)
Assists: Lauren Lea & Sammi Burgess (20) (Sophomore/Freshman)
Points: Shannon Gilroy (106) (Junior)
Shots: Shannon Gilroy (173) (Junior)
Ground Balls: Nora Barry (43) (Junior)
Draw Controls: Shannon Gilroy (82) (Junior)
Saves: Mary-Sean Wilcox (77) (Sophomore)
Wins: Mary-Sean Wilcox (10) (Sophomore)
Losses: Cara Canington (3) (Redshirt Senior)
Goals Allowed: Mary-Sean Wilcox (101) (Sophomore)
Caused Turnovers: Shannon Gilroy (24) (Junior)
Turnovers: Sammi Burgess (26) (Freshman)
For a team with just two seniors and six upperclassmen in total, the Florida Gators set the bar high once again in 2014. Winning the conference championship and nearly reaching the Final Four is an achievement that many schools wish they could do on a consistent basis. What's even scarier is that the Gators did this with a roster predominantly composed of freshmen and sophomores. Florida is going to have some pretty formidable lax squads in the upcoming years as these girls become juniors and seniors.
In terms of coaching, head coach Amanda O'Leary is one of the best in the business. She has done an absolute amazing job with this team with 243 wins in just five seasons. I won't be surprised if she leads one of these star studded Gator lax teams to a National Championship before I graduate.
As for my final thoughts on the 2014 season: I think it was another fantastic year for the UF lax team that they can learn and build on going forward. I can confidently say the excitement of this season has motivated me to attend a lot more games next year.
*All stats accredited to Gatorzone.com
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