Gators win another lacrosse conference championship

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Florida's Lindsey Ronbeck in action. [Cyndi Chambers/Gainesville Sun Correspondent/File]

After a rough first half of the 2019 schedule, the Florida lacrosse team stayed true to the form it has displayed throughout the latter portion of the season.

Florida captured the program’s eighth consecutive victory Saturday with a 25-6 win over Cincinnati in the regular season finale, which in turn gave No. 18-ranked UF the AAC regular season championship. UF has won nine consecutive regular-season championships dating back to 2011 (4 ALC, 4 BIG EAST, 1 AAC).

“I think we improved just by playing those top teams in the country,” UF coach Amanda O’Leary said of the team’s play over the past month. “We want to play the best in order to be the best. It’s not how you start, it’s how you end. And we have a lot of momentum going into the conference championship, which is something we wanted to do, but I’ll never complain about losing to those top teams. I think it made us better.”

The opening few minutes of action were chippy, as the Bearcats, undefeated in conference play prior to arriving in Gainesville, managed to claim an early 3-2 lead. But UF (11-6, 5-0 AAC) quickly responded with a 14-1 run over the next 23:27 to claim a sizable lead before the midway point. With a running clock for much of the second half, Florida tacked on several more while allowing the Bearcats (11-6, 4-1) to record just a pair of goals the rest of the way.

“I think we were playing our game. They made some great plays early on. And credit them, they came in with a very good gameplan,” O’Leary said. “They’re outstanding coaches. Great offensive firepower, really solid zone defense, and a great goalie, so I kind of figured that was going to happen, but really just proud of our kids for putting the pedal down and just going.”

As she has all season, senior attacker Lindsey Ronbeck played a pivotal part in Florida’s dominant display at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

The Manhasset, New York, native needed just 10:15 of action to register her 13th hat-trick of the season, an early display that helped spur UF’s early and decisive scoring barrage.

Ronbeck would finish the game with nine goals, bringing her season goal-scoring total to 76 and setting the program record for most goals in a game.

“I kind of knew after (UF’s 19-13 win over Jacksonville on April 13) when I had eight, a bunch of my teammates said something to me about it, they were like ‘Oh you’ll get it, you’ll get it’,” Ronbeck said. “I think the coaches let me get that last one. They were ready to pull me out.”

It wasn’t just Ronbeck leaving a lasting mark.

Saturday’s performance wasn’t just a reflection of UF’s talent: it also served as a reminder of the departing talent. The Gators honored 11 players participating in their final home game for Senior Day, and the mainstays weren’t prepared to depart without leaving one last strong impression.

Goalie Haley Hicklen recorded six saves in her final home performance, ensuring she would once again conclude conference play having once again allowed the fewest goals by a starting goalkeeper. Midfielder Madi Hall added three goals and three assists, while fellow senior Sydney Pirreca added four goals and a pair of assists.

With the regular season now in the books, the Gators will return to action Thursday in Cincinnati, Ohio, for the semifinal round of the AAC tournament.

“We still have time left, it’s not our last game. But ultimately, you think (about their last game) all season long, you savor every moment that you have with them,” O’Leary said. “They’re such a special group, and I think we saw that today.”

4 COMMENTS

  1. Our lacrosse program has been fantastic from the start, and if I lived in Gainesville, I would be going to these matches regularly. People I know from the New England states that follow lacrosse religiously envy the Gator Nation’s dominant upstart. Way to go Ladies!