Florida clinches Big East lacrosse title outright

Florida lacrosse coach Amanda O'Leary at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun/File]

By Jim Harvin, Correspondent

The sixth-ranked Florida lacrosse team sent seniors Shayna Pirreca, Allie Pavinelli, Aniya Flanagan, Katharine Hamer, Morgan Bracken and Olivia Cole out in style Saturday.

The Gators’ pummeled last-place Butler in Big East Conference action before a Donald R. Dizney Stadium crowd of 415, scoring the first 15 goals of the game en route to a 23-3 runaway win.

UF, which set a season-high for points scored and margin of victory, improved to 14-3 overall and 9-0 in conference play while the Bulldogs, just in their second year of existence, fell to 1-15, 0-9.

Florida also clinched its fourth straight Big East title outright.

“Obviously we are very excited to win the Big East regular season title,” coach Amanda O’Leary said. “It was one of this team’s goals from day one, so being able to accomplish that goal says a lot about this team’s fight and work ethic.”

UF won its eighth straight conference title (four American Lacrosse Conference, four Big East) with a focused effort.

Leading the way was senior attacker Shayna Pirreca, who shared scoring honors with freshman Grace Haus. Each had three goals, with teammates Sydney Pirreca, Shannon Kavanagh, Madisyn Kittell and Pavinelli each adding two.

With her three goals, Shayna Pirreca, who entered the game No. 6 all-time at UF with 139 career goals, moved past former great Sammi Burgess (141, 2014-17) into the No. 5 spot with 142.

Pirreca also extended her school record scoring streak to 37 consecutive games while extending Florida’s winning streak to 25 straight regular-season games and 31 straight in Big East Conference play (counting postseason), the longest in school annals.

UF came out focused, reeling off 10 unanswered goals in the first 7:30 of the match to bring on a running clock for the remainder of the afternoon.

Pirreca’s third and final goal came with 19:48 left in the opening half, giving her 200 career points.

She is just the sixth Gator to reach that lofty plateau.

“It was an emotional day for all of us with it being Senior Day,” Pirreca said. “Our mentality going into the game was to have fun and appreciate each other. We are trying to appreciate every game we have left playing with one another.”

Next up, UF will host the Big East Tournament.

The Gators clinched the No. 1 seed while runner-up Georgetown also clinched, but the third and fourth seeds will depend on the outcomes of Saturday’s games.

The semifinals are Thursday, with the two winners meeting for the tournament title Saturday at noon.

“It is certainly nice to be able to host,” O’Leary said. “Playing in front of our home fans is something we look forward to. It provides our team with a lot of momentum. It’s upbeat and our fans are great, so to be able to play in front of them is going to be a special time for all of us.

“It certainly is very nice not to have to travel, that’s for darn sure.”