Gilroy an irresistible force for Gators

Florida's Shannon Gilroy, a preseason, first-team All-American selection by Inside Lacrosse, leads the nation in goals scored (71), points (84), goals per game (4.73) and points per game (5.60) while leading UF in draw controls (64) and caused turnovers (19).

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer/FILE
Published: Friday, April 11, 2014 at 6:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 11, 2014 at 6:58 p.m.

In a playing and coaching career in women's college lacrosse that spans almost 30 years, Florida coach Amanda O'Leary has pretty much seen it all.

So when O'Leary, who was inducted into the U.S. Lacrosse National Hall of Fame in 2005, heaps praise upon UF's Shannon Gilroy, one gets a true appreciation of just how special the talented junior from Northport, N.Y., really is.

“Shannon is spectacular,” O'Leary said. “Her ability to get open and to draw double-teams and yet still get through double-teams and triple-teams, I personally just don't know how she does it. I just watch in awe from the sideline.”

With 13 seniors having graduated from last year's 18-3 squad that won a third straight American Lacrosse Conference championship, Gilroy, a regular starter each of her first two years who led UF in goals scored (52) and draw controls (59) in 2013, has been circled on every team's scouting report.

She has responded by being everything from the irresistible force to the immovable object for a surprising young squad that is 13-2 overall, a perfect 4-0 in ALC play and ranked No. 4 nationally heading into Sunday's regular-season home finale against Vanderbilt.

“Playing in all those big games really helped me have some momentum coming into this year,” Gilroy said. “I would not be the leader I am today without the seniors last year. They really helped me learn the ins and outs, so I've been able to carry that into this year.

“At first it was a little intimidating to have all those freshmen looking up to you, but I think now that we're such a close-knit team, the leadership role isn't as scary.”

Gilroy, a preseason, first-team All-American selection by Inside Lacrosse, leads the nation in goals scored (71), points (84), goals per game (4.73) and points per game (5.60) while leading UF in draw controls (64) and caused turnovers (19).

She was one of 25 nominees last year for the Tewaaraton Award, which goes to the nation's top player, and was named to the 2014 Watch List for this year's award. That list will be trimmed to 25 nominees on April 24, and the five finalists will be announced on May 8.

“Shannon is doing whatever she needs to do to help our team be successful,” O'Leary said. “She's taking it when she has a shot and she's dishing it off when she doesn't. It's something she's gotten kind of used to.

“She's somebody who we rely upon heavily, and there's a lot of pressure on her shoulders when we are moving the ball around and getting her into a position where she can be best utilized. What we are finding is that teams are trying to shut down Shannon, but unsuccessfully. We have six other shooters and scorers that can put the ball in the net.”

Gilroy can take a game over, as evidenced against No. 13 Johns Hopkins last Saturday. She scored seven goals, all in the second half, in a big 10-9, come-from-behind ALC road win, recording her 200th career point and becoming the Gators' career-leader in free position goals in the process.

Earlier in the year, she set a single-game program record for draw controls with 10 against High Point, and she recently was named the ALC Offensive Player of the Week for the third time this season.

The accolades are nice, but Gilroy's focus remains clearly on the Gators.

“We knew that this year was going to be a big rebuilding year after losing 13 seniors from last year,” she said. “But from day one, I kind of felt like our team was going to be special, just from the chemistry and the way we work together.

“In our two losses (on the road to current No. 1 North Carolina and No. 3 Syracuse), we played great teams, but we didn't really come out with our best. I think from here on out, if we play our best, we could go really far as a team.”

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