Since appearing in its first NCAA Final Four in 2012, Florida lacrosse has yet to make a return to the tournament. Thursday, the Gators played in their fourth Elite Eight in the ten-season span, another opportunity at the elusive penultimate leg.
In Florida’s path was second-seeded Maryland. Since beginning conference play, the Gators had won 15 straight games, tied for the program record set during that same Final Four season in 2012.
The Terrapins would provide for UF’s most formidable opponent since perhaps the last time it faced off against UMD, a 18-8 loss on Feb 26. The Terps are ranked second in the IWLCA coaches poll and compete in one of the most competitive conferences in lacrosse, the Big Ten.
The Gators had a serious challenge to overcome in order to advance.
Florida (17-5, 5-0 AAC) fell once again to Maryland (19-1, 6-0 Big Ten) 18-5, extending its Final Four absence to ten seasons. The Terps’ fired on all cylinders in an utterly dominant perfomance.
UF was held to a season low to a season low five points. Maryland goalkeeper Emily sterling snagged eight saves and boasted a .615 save percentage. Five Gators found the back of the net, but zero were able to secure more than one goal.
Defensively, Florida was simply outmatched. Despite managing a 3-6 deficit in the first half, Maryland blew the game wide open in the second stint. Terrapins attacker Libby May lit up the Gators defense with five goals. Redshirt sophomore keeper recorded nine saves, but that only accounted for one-third of shots taken. Ultimately, UF was sent home empty-handed.
Despite the sour ending, the Gators aren’t in complete turmoil. Many key pieces of the Gators core are still early on in their collegiate career with no signs of moving on from the program. What’s left for Florida is to retool for the next campaign next spring.