Photo by Leslie White via UAA

Florida entered the 2022 NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament in an advantageous position. The Gators had won their last 13 games on their way to an American Conference championship, the eight seed in the tournament and home field advantage for the first two rounds.

Against Mercer, UF’s first round opponent, Florida entered a perfect 2-0. The Gators defeated the Bears 23-5 in last year’s tournament and 19-5 earlier in the regular season. All things considered, UF looked set for a dominating performance in the first round. The Gators triumphed, but they looked far less invincible than usual in the process.

Florida (17-4, 5-0 AAC) defeated Mercer (14-5, 8-1 Big South) 19-12 on Friday. The game was back-and-forth early on before the Gators eventually pulled away and secured the win.

UF got on the board first with two quick goals from Paisley Eagan and Danielle Pavinelli. Pavinelli scored four goals in the game. The sophomore attacker is now three goals away from becoming Florida’s 15th 100-goal scorer.

Florida found success offensively, but allowed four goals in the first quarter to end the opening period up just one goal, 5-4. A big part of UF’s struggles came from turnovers. The Gators had a game-high five turnovers in the first quarter and finished with 13 total.

In the second quarter, Florida ramped up its aggressiveness on offense. The Gators added five more goals, but left plenty more off the board. UF shot 13 times and the Bears recorded five saves in the quarter, their highest in the game. Heading into halftime, Florida led 10-6.

Mercer scored the opening goal of the second half before UF went on a 6-2 run to close the quarter up 16-9. Ashley Gonzalez led the onslaught of scoring in the game, notching a season-high five goals. The Bears added a few more goals before the final whistle, but the Gators remained in control to slip away with the victory.

Up next, Florida will take on Jacksonville. The Dolphins topped Stanford 20-8 Friday afternoon. The Gators will once again have home-field advantage as they look to secure a second-consectuive Sweet 16 berth. First draw is set for Sunday at 4 p.m.

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