On Saturday, Danielle Pavinelli wrapped up a dominant season with her 51st goal of the season and a victory over East Carolina. The second-year attacker and former American Conference Freshman of the Year made history earlier this season becoming just the 19th Gator to score 100 career points, finishing with 79 during the 2022 regular season.
The sophomore’s individual achievement propelled UF to a perfect 5-0 conference record and an outright AAC regular season championship. Florida is ranked ninth in the country and is seeded first in the upcoming American Conference tournament.
Pavinelli has been nominated a top 25 finalist for the Tewaaraton Award for the nation’s best player and was named the AAC Attacker of the Year earlier this week.
Pavinelli knows better than anyone her success this season was no accident — and the road doesn’t end here. ChompTalk sat down with the Gators standout earlier this season to talk about her beginnings in lacrosse, play this year and the postseason ahead:
Q: When did you fall in love with lacrosse, and when did you realize you could play at a high level?
A: “I fell in love with it probably around like fifth grade was when I really started to invest my time in the sport and like work on my skill. When I was in high school, a lot of girls were committing around freshman year. My eighth and ninth grade year was a huge time for a lot of girls, because that’s when they were getting recruited. The summer going into ninth grade was when I really settled down and focused on what colleges I wanted to go do and just really tried to go to get recruited and get as much looks as I can.”
Q: Was getting recruited more of a struggle or something that came naturally as you played?
A: “I think it was a little bit of a struggle, because lacrosse was a growing sport at this time. There was so many girls trying to go to college for the sport, but I would go to a lot of recruiting camps and different clinics that would allow for coaches to look at you. So arose a little bit of a struggle because there’s so many girls. I think I had plenty of opportunities where coaches could see me play and get in touch with me.”
Q: What schools did you consider before deciding on Florida, and why Florida?
A: “Besides Florida being my number one, Duke and Ohio State were also two I was interested in. I’ve wanted to go to Florida for as long as I can remember. My sister went here and played lacrosse here, so she was a huge role model to me and seeing how much she loved the school just really inspired me to want to go here as well. I’ve always kind of known.”
Q: What was your preparation heading into this season? Did anything change that you can cite as the difference in year two?
A: “I think that coming into this year, I wanted to take on a bigger role and make more of an impact on our team and help out any way that I could. Coming in, I had a different mindset that I had to do more to help out the team. I was prepping my training before getting to college this year. Just the little things that I knew I had to do to be more of a leader this year. That mindset has really helped me in the games knowing that I have to help with goals, or assists, anything possible. That just really motivated me to play better and play harder.”
Q: What are your goals for this year’s postseason?
“I mean, every player’s goal is to get to the national championship. We haven’t been there in a really long time. We want to get to the Final Four and get to the championship. I think we need to just keep playing as hard as we can in practice, off the field and in games, just the little things we need to keep doing to get there and win it all. I think that’s a team goal of ours in general. It’s always in the back of people’s mind, and what pushes everyone and motivates everyone every day.”
Q: Is there anything you’d like to say about the team you’ve played with this year?
A: “Overall like this team is the hardest working team I’ve ever been on. We all are working for one goal. And you can see that on and off the field. Everyone is so motivated, and I’ve never been on a team like this before. We all work for each other. There’s no selfishness, and it’s really just a fun team to play with.”