TopOfTheCircle.com

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Feb. 21, 2016 — Setting up the almost-perfect matchup

Well, just when we thought that next Saturday would be a showdown between an undefeated Maryland and and an undefeated North Carolina, in comes Florida to steal a one-goal win over the Heels.

The game on Saturday, no doubt, will still feature a tremendous number of star lacrosse players with skills and athleticism, and should be a great show for the fans who come to the match.

But now, it’s time for the lacrosse community to give the University of Florida a second look as a possible contender for the national championship. A month ago, we put Florida in our Fearless 5ive, mostly because of its tremendous recruiting class and its defense.

It was a defense that was on full display yesterday. Sydney DuPre, Aniya Flanagan, Caroline Fitzgerald, Taylor Bresnahan, and veteran goalie Mary-Sean Wilcox withstood everything North Carolina threw at them, including an early offensive burst that staked UNC out to a four-goal lead in the first 10 minutes. But the Gators took advantage of some Carolina indiscipline and notched three extra-woman opportunity goals to level the match 8-8 at the interval.

Florida then took the lead on an unusual sequence. With North Carolina up two players because of Gator yellows late in the first half, Florida came up with the ball on the opening draw of the second half, whereupon Sydney Pirreca scored a short-handed goal, giving the visitors the lead.

Carolina and Florida threw mini-surges at each other, but the definitive surge was a four-goal run by Florida capped off by a Pirreca goal in the 47th minute. That goal gave the Gators a 14-11 lead, a lead they held until the final whistle.

The game was played very much like a tournament elimination game, with plenty of scoring, plenty of surges, and plenty of umpire interventions. There were 10 yellow cards dished out and, because of the current collegiate rules, there was no accumulating card count that would result in a team playing short the rest of the way after a team’s fourth yellow. Had that happened, UNC would have been a player short from the 22nd minute on; Florida picked up its fourth yellow on the stroke of halftime.

Makes you wonder if the lords of the NCAA should institute a team card count.

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