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Florida Begins the 2024 Season at Loyola in Top 10 Showdown

by Corey Lichtman

Gators head to Baltimore to take on No. 7 Loyola on Saturday

BALTIMORE, Md. – The 10th ranked Florida lacrosse team is set to write their story for 2024, as they travel to Baltimore this weekend to open up the season against the No. 7 ranked Loyola Greyhounds. First draw is scheduled for 12 p.m. on ESPN+ with Brady Seabolt and Jessy Morgan on the call.

This is the 11th career meeting between the two schools, and the second consecutive top 10 match-up. The Gators lead the series 7-3, including a 14-11 victory last season at Donald D. Dizney Stadium. Down 11-9 in the fourth quarter, Florida used a balanced attack from five different goal scorers to end the game on a 5-0 burst. Four of the last five match-ups between these marquee programs have been decided by three goals or less.

UF is coming off a 17-4 season advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. They earned their ninth straight conference tournament championship in 2023 and 10th overall. The Greyhounds are coming off an impressive 19-3 season, making it to the quarterfinals of the big dance.

What to Know About the 2024 Gators

Familiar Faces. Florida returns eight of 11 starters from last years team and six of their seven leading point scorers in Maggi Hall (83), Danielle Pavinelli (68), Emily Heller (43), Ashley Gonzalez (39), Madison Waters (31) and Paisley Eagan (25). This was a Gators offense that ranked 10th in the country in points per game (22.52).

Help is on the Way. Florida brought in four transfers this off season to go along with a freshman class that features seven top 50 recruits. Sarah Falk (Albany), Hannah Heller (Massachusetts) and Maria Pansini (Princeton) bring experience to the team combining for 98 starts in their careers. Falk scored 72 goals last season, good for fifth in the country. Heller is coming off a season where she earned Atlantic 10 All-Conference First Team, registering 55 draw controls, 38 ground balls and 25 caused turnovers.

Defense Wins Championships. The Gators are coming off a year where they ranked 16th in the country in scoring defense at 9.33 goals allowed per game. Catherine Flaherty and Theresa Bragg return as starters from last season to command the back line. After the departure of all-time saves leader Sarah Reznick, Goalkeeper Elyse Finelle looks to step in and thrive in net.

Accolade Acknowledgement. Heller, Hall, and Pavinelli were all named to the AAC Preseason All-Conference Team at the end of January. Heller was voted AAC Preseason Midfielder of the Year along with being named to the IL Women All-American Second Team. Her and Pavinelli earned USA Lacrosse Magazine All-American Honorable Mention honors in mid-January.

Gators Going Up. Florida was ranked in the top-20 in six statistical categories last season. The Gators ranked 11th in scoring offense (14.86), 16th in scoring defense (9.33), tied for eighth in assists (7.67), 10th in points per game (22.82), and tied for second in shot percentage (.497) and 12th in scoring margin (+5.52).

Scouting the Opposition

Loyola features three IL Preseason All-Americans in Lauren Spence, Sydni Black and Georgia Latch. Spence was named Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year just a year ago, anchoring the second-best scoring defense in the country last season allowing just 7.09 goals per game.

The Greyhounds are seven-time Patriot League Tournament Champions, and have won 75 consecutive conference games.

Key Notes

  • Florida is looking for their seventh straight season opening win. They own a 9-5 record overall to start the season.
  • The Gators seek their first win over a top-10 opponent since winning at No. 1 Maryland on Feb. 15, 2020.
  • Maggi Hall has recorded a point in 19 consecutive game.
  • Sarah Falk has scored a goal in 15 straight games.
  • Hannah Heller has won a draw control 10 games in a row.
  • Liz Harrison currently sits fourth all-time in career draw controls with 210.

Watch No. 10 Florida at No. 7 Loyola

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