CINCINNATI, Ohio – The No. 18 Florida women’s lacrosse team advanced to the American Athletic Conference Championship after defeating Vanderbilt 19-10 on Thursday evening.
The Gators will face the winner of the second semifinal between Cincinnati and Temple on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Sheakley Athletics Center.
Florida continues its quest for the program’s sixth-straight conference tournament championship and the eighth overall by the program.
Sydney Pirreca led the way for the Gator offense with a historic day, scoring five goals and six assists for a total of 11 points on the day. The 11 points tied the program record for the most in a single game, while the six assists set a new program record.
The Gators won 16 draws during the game, led by seven by Lindsey Ronbeck.
Haley Hicklen recorded seven saves throughout the game, finishing with a .438 saves percentage. With that victory, she picked up her 12th win of the season and the 47th of her career, just three wins away from tying the program record (Mikey Meagher, 50 wins).
How it Happened
Sydney Pirreca got the Gators on the board just one minute into the game on a pass from Lindsey Ronbeck, but just three minutes later Vanderbilt answered with the equalizer on a free-position attempt.
From that point on, Florida went on a 4-0 run beginning with a fast break goal from Ronbeck. That goal all started from a turnover caused by Cara Trombetta, which allowed Florida to get out to the fast break opportunity.
Caroline Benitez muscled the ball into the back of the net after receiving a pass from Pirreca to put Florida up 3-1. Shannon Kavanagh then scored back-to-back on passes from Pirreca – who scored four points before 11 minutes had run off the clock – to put Florida up 5-1.
Vanderbilt answered with three quick goals, cutting Florida’s lead to 5-4 with 13:16 remaining in the first half but the Gators cut off the momentum by scoring three consecutive goals of their own. Grace Haus scored back-to-back goals – both from Pirreca – to put the Gators back ahead 7-4.
Pirreca then found the back of the net herself on a pass from Brianna Harris, putting the Gators up 8-4 with just over nine minutes remaining. That was the seventh point for Pirreca in just the first half.
Kavanagh followed with just a cannon of a free-position attempt, putting the Gators up 9-4 with 4:42 left in the first frame. Vanderbilt answered just 25 seconds later to come within four goals at 9-5, but Kavanagh once again buried one from the 8-meter to put the Gators up 10-5.
Pirreca could not be stopped in the first half, tying her career-high eight points, just in the first frame. Ronbeck followed with a goal with just one second remaining in the second half, putting Florida up 12-5 going into the locker room.
Coming out of the half, Pirreca extended Florida’s lead to 13-5 on her fourth goal of the day, bringing her to a career-best nine points on the day.
Vanderbilt got one back with 27:54 remaining in the second half, but Haus notched her third and fourth goals of the game within one minute of each other to put Florida up 15-6. Pirreca assisted Haus on the first of the two goals, bringing her to 10 points on the day and 200 points for her career. That sixth assist was also a program-best record, surpassing Harris’s record of five earlier this season.
The milestones kept coming, with Ronbeck scoring her third goal of the day. With that goal, she became just the second Gator to score 300 points in their career (Shannon Gilroy – 320).
Pirreca tied Florida’s program record in points (11) with her fifth goal of the day, which was followed by Haus’s fifth goal of the game – a new career-high for the sophomore.
Madi Hall got in on all of the scoring action, posting her first goal of the day with 11:40 remaining in the game before Vanderbilt pulled back within 10 goals with 9:15 remaining. The Commodores would tack on one more goal, but Florida secured the victory and a spot in the American Athletic Conference Tournament championship on Saturday.
No. 18 Florida (12-6, 5-0)
Vanderbilt (10-6, 2-3)
On success on the road
GET YOUR TICKETS
Unlike regular season lacrosse games at UC, the AAC Tournament is a ticketed event and there are two ways to purchase tickets: the day of the game at the ticket window or by calling the UC Ticket Office at 1-877-CATS-TIX. Here is the pricing for the tournament:
• Adults – $5
• Youth (4-17) – $3
• Senior (65+) – $3
• Groups (10+) – $2
PICK YOUR SEAT
Seating at the Sheakley Athletic Center is open. To help you better plan ahead, the home team’s bench will be on the right side of the playing surface (looking at the field from the stands) and the visiting team’s bench will be on the left. The home team in each game will be the higher seed, meaning Florida and Cincinnati will be on the right and Vanderbilt and Temple will be on the left in their semifinal games.
Parking will be free this week as the garages on campus will be open for graduation ceremonies starting Thursday. Parking in the Corry (across from Sheakley) and Calhoun (next to the track & field facility) Garages will be the closest sites for lacrosse fans, but please know that with graduation ceremonies going on, those garages may fill up quickly. Please see the maps of parking options at the following link for a list of alternatives should Corry and/or Calhoun be full by the time you arrive: https://www.uc.edu/parking/visitors-maps.html. Fans are encouraged to arrive earlier than normal – especially for Saturday’s final – to give themselves enough time to find parking ahead of the games.