By Jim Harvin/Correspondent
The 14th-ranked Florida lacrosse team faced a number of challenges from 18th-ranked Colorado in their season opener Saturday, but answered every one en route to an exciting 11-10 win before a Donald R. Dizney Stadium crowd of 545.
The Gators (1-0) trailed for the vast majority of the game and never led by more than one goal at any time, but still managed to come away with the win, much to the delight of head coach Amanda O’Leary.
“A lot of freshmen saw a lot of playing time today,” O’Leary said. “I think the great thing for us was to watch each and every one of them step up. Pregame jitters were certainly there.
“They were a little nervous in the locker room. You could see their faces. They were like deer-in-headlights, but once they stepped out on the field and got some plays under their belt, I thought they did a fantastic job. I think the future is certainly bright with that group.”
Redshirt junior midfielder Brianna Harris led all players with five goals and fellow junior midfielder Shannon Kavanaugh had four to account for nine of UF’s scores, with freshman midfielder Emily Heller adding two goals and an assist.
“It’s a great feeling,” Kavanaugh said. “We had a lot of the freshmen on the field getting their first college game under their belt. There were a lot of nerves going on.
“Colorado is a great team and they’re always going to fight, but I think we came back with more fight than them so in the end we pulled out the win.”
Junior attacker Sadie Grozier led the Buffaloes with four goals with fellow junior attacker Zoe Lawless adding three while Charlie Rudy, Chloe Willard and Audrey Kingdom each had a goal.
Each team finished with six assists, with Hannah Mardiney leading UF and Liz Phillips leading Colorado with three apiece.
Both goalies were outstanding, with redshirt freshman Sarah Reznick recording 11 saves for UF in her first career start while Colorado senior Julia Liselia finished with 13.
“We knew how talented she was last year, but to see her come out in her first game was incredible,” O’Leary said of Reznick. “I thought she played with a lot of confidence. She has such passion for the game and I thought she dictated the defense and did what we asked her to do.”
UF had 32 shots to Colorado’s 28 while the Buffaloes finished with 19 ground balls to Florida’s 17.
The Gators had a solid edge in draw controls, 17-6, highlighted by an 8-2 advantage in the second half.
Colorado (0-1) led by as many as three goals at 5-2, but Florida responded with a trio of goals within a minute to knot the score.
The teams finished the first half tied 6-6.
“Everybody generally wants everybody else to succeed,” Harris noted. “Once there was like 30 seconds left on the shot clock and I like literally got chills. It’s such a team effort and there’s so much love going around. We’re all on the same wavelength.”
Next up, Florida travels to face top-ranked Maryland on Saturday at noon.