Lacrosse: UConn takes on No. 2 Gators for regular-season title

UConn senior attack Carly Palmucci carries the ball during the Huskies' game against Vanderbilt at the Sherman Family Sports Complex in Storrs, Connecticut on Saturday, April 16, 2016. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus)

The UConn women’s lacrosse team will travel down to Gainesville, Florida for the first time in program history for Sunday’s game against the No. 2 Florida Gators. Faceoff is slated for noon at Dizney Stadium in Gainesville.

With UConn (12-2) and Florida (15-1) both winning on Wednesday and sharing 6-0 conferences records, Sunday’s game will decide the Big East regular season title and the first-seed in the Big East tournament.

UConn head coach Katie Woods said she knows a regular season title would be nice, but this team has bigger goals to accomplish.

“Don’t get me wrong, a regular season title would be unbelievable. It’d be the first in program history,” Woods said. “But Florida is a really strong team, and we’re playing them on the their senior day. We need to figure out how to play our game and not get caught up in the moment. This game is the key to putting ourselves in a good position to make a run in the tournament.”

The Gators come into Sunday’s game with a 15-1 record that includes three wins over top-ten teams in the country. Their only loss came from a 14-4 defeat at the hands of the undefeated No. 1 Maryland Terrapins.

These two teams last met in last year’s Big East tournament championship. The Gators dominated the Huskies en route to a 20-6 victory.

This year, Florida’s lethal offense is the main reason behind their success. Senior Nicole Graziano leads the Gators with 47 points. Sophomore Shayna Pirreca and freshman Lindsey Ronbeck are tied with 41 points, and junior Sammi Burgess is right behind with 39 points.

To upset the Gators on Sunday, UConn will need huge games from the usual suspects. Senior goaltender Shannon Nee will need to play the best game of her impressive season. The offense will have to deliver as well.

Sophomore sensation Grace Nolan has tallied a team high 54 points on the season, and senior Kate Finkelston leads the Huskies in goals and has 48 points. The Huskies will need solid performances from those two and other players on this UConn offense to step up.

Both of UConn’s two losses came against ranked teams this season. UMass was ranked No. 19 when they knocked off UConn with a 15-6 victory, and the Syracuse Orange were No. 4 in the country when they rolled over the Huskies 17-7.

Florida is No. 2 in the country and the best team UConn will play this season. Coach Woods believes the way to finally knock off a top-tier team starts with sticking to the game plan.

“We need to really focus on the team game and execute it,” Woods said. “Why we’re so good and have had the success we’ve had is because we play really well as a team. Teammates back each other up and we’re a tight unit. This is our first time going down to Florida. Lacrosse is a different culture down there, it’s hot, and we need to make sure we keep focused. Now more than ever.”


Connor Donahue is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at connor.f.donahue@uconn.edu.