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No. 9 Florida Set for Top-15 Clash Against 14th Ranked James Madison

First draw is set for 11:30 a.m. at Donald R. Dizney Stadium

via UF press release/website, by Corey Lichtman

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The ninth ranked Florida lacrosse team returns home after a successful two game road trip to take on conference rival and the 14th ranked James Madison Dukes. Opening draw is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on ESPN+, with Sean Salisbury and John Christovich on the call. The first 100 fans at the game will receive a beach tote in honor of the theme being #FLAX Beach Day.

This is the fifth career matchup between these two teams, with the series tied at 2-2. Florida’s last three meetings with the Dukes have all been decided by five goals or less, including their last meeting, when Florida defeated James Madison by a score of 9-8 in the AAC Tournament Championship to secure their ninth consecutive tournament championship crown. The Gators trailed 8-7 heading into the final frame, but outscored the Dukes 2-0 in the fourth, as Madison Waters scored the game winning goal with 10:43 remaining to secure the victory. Danielle Pavinelli led the way with four points on three goals and an assist.

The Gators (12-2, 3-0 AAC) are riding the nations longest winning streak at a total of 12 games. They are coming off a 19-7 road victory last Saturday over East Carolina. Florida was led by the play of Maggi HallEmily Heller and Sarah Falk, who combined for 13 of the teams 19 goals. Florida sits at 3-0 in Conference play, defeating Old Dominion, Vanderbilt and East Carolina by a total margin of 58-16.

Outlook on the Dukes
No. 14 James Madison (10-3, 3-0 AAC) was ranked as high as No. 2 this season, and spent just over a month being ranked inside the top five. The Dukes are coming off a 14-10 win over Temple on Saturday.

Offensively the Dukes are led by Isabella Petersen and Madison Epke. The duo has combined for 86 of the teams 212 (40.6 percent) goal on the year, as Petersen leads the team with 48 scores. She has 271 career goals, which is second among active players behind Northwestern’s Izzy Scane. James Madison leans on Katelyn Morgan and Kacey Knobloch for facilitating, as the two of them have 42 of the teams 86 assists (48.8 percent) on the season with Knobloch leading the team with 22.

The Dukes are coached by Shelley Klaes, who is in her 18th season at James Madison and 23rd season overall. Klaes owns a 227-96 record during her time at James Madison, including leading the Dukes to their first national championship in 2018.

Draw Control Battle
Saturday’s game will feature two teams in the top-20 in draw controls percentage, as Florida wins their draws at a .649 percent rate (5th in the nation), and James Madison own draw controls at a .578 percent rate (19th).

 It will be a marquee matchup in the draw circle, as Liz Harrison and Madison Epke both rank in the top five in total draw controls and draw controls per game this season. Harrison, is having a career campaign, currently leading the country in total draw controls with 174, and is second in draw controls per game at 12.43. The senior has won double-digit draw controls in 11 games this season, and in nine straight. She has won at least 15 in four games, including a program record 19 against UC Davis on March 6.

Epke ranks fourth in total draw controls this year with 127, and is fifth in draw controls per game at 9.77. She has eclipsed the double-digit mark in seven games this season.

Emily HellHER
Emily Heller earned her first AAC Midfielder of the Week honor this season, after posting a career high six points, on four goals and two assists on Saturday against East Carolina. Heller has been a two-way prowess for the Gators this year, posting three hat-tricks while scoring in every game this season, and ranking top three on the team in ground balls (1st), draw controls (2nd) and caused turnovers (2nd).

Elite Offensive Operation
Both Florida and James Madison have had effective offensive seasons, ranking in the top-10 in scoring offense, shot percentage, draw controls per game, assists per game, and free position percentage.

Florida ranks first in both scoring offense (18.57 goals per game), and assists per game (9.43). The Gators have eight players with at least 20 points this season, led by Maggi Hall (68) and Pavinelli (56) in that category. Hall leads the AAC in assists with 37, and ranks 13th in the country assisting on 2.64 goals per game. UF is averaging 20.00 goals per game over this 12-game winning streak, scoring at least 15 goals in the last 11 games.

Shoutout the Defense
The Florida defense has raised the standard this season, currently tied for eighth in the country in scoring defense. This back line is only surrendering 8.36 goals per game, and have held their opponent to under 10 goals in 10 of the last 11 games. Opponents are scoring just 6.80 goals per game during that time span, with a .216 shot percentage overall.

Key Notes

  • Florida owns a 132-23 all-time record at home, carrying a 14-game regular season home winning streak
  • The Gators own a 43-21 record all-time at home against ranked opponents, and are 75-56 overall when playing top-25 teams. They have a 2-2 record this season against ranked teams
  • UF is 28-1 in AAC play, with that one loss coming against James Madison on March 18 of last season
  • Sarah Falk reached the 200-career point milestone last game, and is averaging 2.00 goals per game over her last five contests
  • This is the fourth consecutive meeting where both Florida and James Madison have been ranked inside the top-15

Milestone Watching

  • Emily Heller is one draw control away from 200 career draw controls
  • Amanda O’Leary is six wins away from 400 career wins
  • Danielle Pavinelli is two points away from passing Kitty Cullen for fifth all-time
  • Ashley Gonzalez is four assists away from passing Sammi Burgess for fourth all-time
  • Maggi Hall is 10 assists away from passing Brianna Harris for most assists in a single season

Active Streaks (eight games or better)

Watch No. 9 Florida take on No. 14 James Madison
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