Notebook: Florida lacrosse to play at Syracuse in Elite Eight
Women's tennis heads to Sweet 16
Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 13, 2013 at 11:02 p.m.
Standing between the Florida lacrosse team and a return to the NCAA semifinals is the squad that ousted the Gators from last year's Final Four in a heartbreaking, double-overtime defeat.
No. 5 seed UF (18-2) takes on No. 4 seed Syracuse (17-3) Saturday at 2 p.m. in the vast expanses of the Carrier Dome in what should be an epic confrontation.
The two teams met in Miami on March 2, with the Gators taking a 14-10 win.
But it was last year's come-from-behind, 14-13 OT win by the Orange in which SU rallied back from a seven-goal deficit that led to the “Unfinished Business” slogan that has driven the Gators this season.
While the Gators, who dismantled Denver, 16-5, Sunday at Dizney Stadium to move to the Elite Eight for the third straight year, certainly have the talent and experience to bring that slogan one step closer to fruition with a win, taking down Syracuse in front of what will be a large and loud home crowd will be a definite challenge.
“We know a lot about their program, and they know a lot about us,” UF head coach Amanda O'Leary said. “They lost one of their best players, Michelle Tumolo, to an ACL (injury), but they seem to be playing flawlessly.”
The Orange are led by junior Teewaaraton Award finalist Alyssa Murray, who became just the sixth player in history to score 10 or more points in an NCAA Tournament game with her 10-point (five goals, five assists) effort in a 21-8 second-round win over Dartmouth Sunday.
UF will counter with a Teewaaraton Award finalist of its own in senior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher, who had nine saves in Sunday's win over the Pioneers. Offensively, UF got a season-high five goals from senior attack Kitty Cullen.
“We can't get back that game from last year, so we need to formulate a great game plan going up there,” O'Leary said. “It's a tough place to play. The Dome is a little overwhelming, and we've never played there, so we're going into a new environment. It will be a challenge for us, but certainly we've overcome some challenges this season, and hopefully that will just be another one.”
After cruising through this past weekend's Gainesville Regional with a pair of 4-0 wins over Marist and Georgia Tech, top-ranked and No. 1 overall seed Florida now heads to the Sweet 16 in Urbana, Ill.
UF (24-2), winner of 17 straight matches, is hunting for a third consecutive NCAA title and will take on No. 15 Duke (16-9) at 10 a.m. Friday.
The Blue Devils, who defeated Florida back on Feb. 17 at Duke, upset host Texas Tech, 4-3, Sunday.
While the Gators, who own a 34-5 all-time edge over the Blue Devils and are 6-0 against them in NCAA Tournament play, are a much better team than they were three months ago, Duke is not the same either, but in a much different way.
The Blue Devils have been decimated by injuries and have just five players in their lineup – one of them a scholarship soccer player. As a result, they've had to forfeit one doubles match and one singles match before playing of late, resulting in them losing six of their last seven regular-season matches and likely missing out on a top-16 seed because of the disadvantage.
It didn't stop them, however, from winning their first- and second-round NCAA contests.
“Obviously they're not as dangerous as they were when we played them in February,” Thornqvist said. “The fact that Duke is in the Round of 16 is just a remarkable achievement . We went through something similar in '09, and I remember how difficult it was to be down almost two points before the match even starts. The fact that they've made it this far is just really impressive.”
The victor will take on the winner of the match between No. 8 seed California and No. 9 seed Alabama in quarterfinal action Sunday at noon.