Gators seek ALC tourney title
Published: Friday, May 2, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 2, 2014 at 12:14 a.m.
It seems the No. 3 Florida lacrosse team will be tested both on and off the field at the 2014 American Lacrosse Conference Tournament in Evanston, Ill.
“We're in the middle of exams, so it's always tough competing during this time,” coach Amanda O'Leary said. “I think we have 15 players who are going to be taking exams on the road, so that's a big undertaking.”
The on-field testing begins today at 5:30 p.m. when No. 1 seed UF (15-2, 6-0) faces No. 5 seed Johns Hopkins in the first of two semifinals at Northwestern's Lakeside Field.
The Blue Jays (15-3, 3-3) defeated No. 4 seed Penn State, 13-10, in the first of three games Thursday.
Since the league added a seventh team this year (Michigan), a bye was created for the top seed, meaning Florida was the only team not to play on the first day.
“Ever since I've been here, we've been the first seed and been really motivated to come out on top in the tournament,” UF junior Nora Barry said. “This year, we're lucky enough to have a bye the first round, so I think that will be really helpful for us to watch some of the other teams play, then prepare for our game and hopefully go on from there.”
The Gators, who have won four straight ALC regular-season titles, have only won one ALC Tournament, that in 2012 when they hosted for the only time. Seven-time NCAA champion Northwestern, this year's host, has won the other six (2007-present), including an 8-3 win over Florida in the 2013 final at Johns Hopkins.
This year's final is set for Sunday at noon, with a win today putting UF in it for the fourth straight year.
“Ultimately, this team has done such a good job of preparing, and they put a lot of time into that preparation, whether they're watching film or whether they're competing in practice,” O'Leary said. “They do their jobs, and we look at the conference tournament as just a business trip. They've treated every other trip as a business trip, and I expect them to do the same with this one. But the challenge is certainly great.”
If UF is to win a second trophy, it will have to be this year. The ALC is disbanding as four members — Northwestern, Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan — are leaving to join Maryland and Rutgers in forming the Big Ten Women's Lacrosse Conference that begins play next year.
Florida and Vanderbilt are projected to move to the Big East (lacrosse only), while Johns Hopkins is slated to play as an independent for at least one year.
In related news, O'Leary was selected as ALC Coach of the Year for the third time in the last four years, while junior Shannon Gilroy and freshman Sammi Burgess were named ALC Midfielder and Rookie of the Year, respectively.
Gilroy, who has set nine program records this season, leads the nation in goals (75), goals per game (4.41) and points per game (5.35) and ranks second in points (91), while Burgess ranks second on the team in goals (31) and points (45) behind Gilroy and third in assists (14) behind Gilroy and sophomore Lauren Lea (16 each).
UF also had four players earn All-ALC honors. Barry and Gilroy were both named to the first team, while Burgess and fellow freshman Caroline Fitzgerald were named to the second team.