January 31, 2013

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#LMranks: No. 1 Florida Gators (Women)

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Team Page/Schedule


"They're pretty willing to go out and do things that they wouldn't ordinarily do because they know Mikey's behind them," Florida coach Mandee O'Leary said of the Gators' defense in front of goalie Mikey Meagher.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Lacrosse Magazine's preseason NCAA Division I Top 20 countdown concludes today with profiles of the second- and first-ranked teams in D-I men and women.

Check back Friday for our preseason player of the year picks and profiles, and next week for more preseason #LMranks extra content, including our "Best of the Rest" and rankings analysis. For more on our preseason rankings for all levels, visit LaxMagazine.com/LMranks. Follow @LacrosseMag on Twitter and Tweet using the hashtag #LMranks.

Power Ratings

Offense: 5*
Defense: 5
Goalkeeping: 5
Draw Control: 5
* Out of 5

Top Returner

M Brittany Dashiell (Sr.)
Florida's first Tewaaraton Award finalist is a threat at both ends of the field. Dashiell tied for No. 1 on the team in points (69) and No. 2 for caused turnovers (17) in 2012.

X-Factor

M Nora Barry (So.)
The ALC Rookie of the Year had the best shooting percentage on the team (.635), scoring 40 goals on just 63 shots and setting a single-season program record for ground balls (48). "She plays at both ends of the field, and we rely on her for transitions. She makes really good decisions. She's definitely somebody we're really excited to have back," Florida coach Mandee O'Leary said.

What's New?

Florida has scheduled one of the longest possible road trips in college lacrosse by adding Oregon to its schedule. There are 2,941 miles between Gainesville, Fla., and Eugene, Ore., and the reigning champs of the ALC and the MPSF will play at the Ducks' newly revamped Papé Field on March 16.

What's Not?

The players. All of the starters, save one (Haydon Judge), return from last year's team that reached the national semifinals. The freshman class that arrived in Gainesville four years ago is all grown up.

2012 Recap

Record: 19-3 (5-0 ALC)

In a Nutshell: The Gators reached new heights in their third year as a varsity program, downing ALC rival Northwestern not once but twice en route to their first conference championship. Florida advanced to its first semifinal, only to lose a heartbreaker to Syracuse in double overtime.

High Point: Doubling up on Northwestern, 14-7, in the ALC championship game on April 21. It was the first time a team had beaten Northwestern twice in one season since 2003, and it secured the top seed in the NCAA tournament for the Gators.

Low Point: Florida's collapse against Syracuse in the NCAA semifinal. The Gators led by as many as seven during the second half, but allowed the Orange to score five goals in the final seven minutes to force overtime. Then, in overtime, a would-be game-winner by midfielder Gabi Wiegand was disallowed for an illegal stick. The Orange won the game, 14-13, in double overtime on an unassisted shot by Sarah Holden.

2013 Preview

#LMranks WD1 Preseason Countdown

No. 20 Princeton
No. 19 Boston College
No. 18 Stony Brook
No. 17 UMass
No. 16 Towson
No. 15 Cornell
No. 14 Georgetown
No. 13 Ohio State
No. 12 Penn
No. 11 Dartmouth
No. 10 Notre Dame
No. 9 Penn State
No. 8 Virginia
No. 7 Duke
No. 6 Loyola
No. 5 North Carolina
No. 4 Maryland
No. 3 Northwestern
No. 2 Syracuse
No. 1 Florida
Friday: Preseason Player of the Year
Next week: "Best of the Rest," rankings analysis, telling numbers, Top 20 matchups.

More: Countdown schedule | MD1 | MD2 | WD2 | MD3 | WD3 | JuCo | MCLA | WCLA

Best Case: A senior-laden team has the twin benefits of talent and experience, and the Gators use them to win the national title that has been the Gators' goal since the school announced its intention to add lacrosse as a varsity sport in 2006. Mikey Meagher becomes the first female goalie to be named a Tewaaraton finalist.

Worst Case: Florida can't keep its winning streak against Northwestern alive, loses the conference crown and gets a relatively low seed in the tournament. As a result of a tough match-up in the expanded field of 26, the Gators get bounced in an early round. The "super class" graduates without an NCAA championship.

Inside Scoop

Coach Mandee O'Leary's comments on...

G Mikey Meagher (Sr.)
"The key with our defense is that they don't mind taking chances. They're pretty willing to go out and do things that they wouldn't ordinarily do because they know Mikey's behind them. Her technique isn't picture perfect, but she makes saves. That's all we ask her to do. She gets the job done. It may not be the most technically sound or the perfect way to make the save, but she gets it done. Defensively, she's such a critical piece of that puzzle. She's a great communicator. She'll be a huge, huge loss for us when she graduates. She just brings so much to the table."

D Sam Farrell (Sr.)
"Sam is ultimately our most talented defender. She has such quick feet. She's instinctive. She just understands defense. Even when she was in high school, the Severna Park coach, Carin Peterson, called me on the phone and said, 'This kid is really special. She's going to do great things and be a great college player.' She certainly has delivered. That kid is by far one of the best defenders out there in the country. She's going to line up against every team's best attacker, too. She draws that kid game in and game out and never complains."

M Brittany Dashiell (Sr.)
"Brittany has always been incredibly talented. We put a lot of burden of our offense and even our defense and obviously through the midfield on Brit's shoulders. We asked her to do it all and she delivered. The most exciting thing for us was year two to year three, she just seemed to have a bit more confidence. Although we all know she could get it done, she's the most humble individual you'll ever meet. She's more comfortable making a pass than scoring a goal. We told her, 'We need you to go to goal.' She took on that responsibility last year and she did a great job of handling herself, really stepping up and being a threat and scoring some goals. That was the difference maker. She just took it upon herself to really step up, and I saw that as a big change from her sophomore year to her junior year. She was a threat on the offensive end through the midfield. And she can take the draw.

"I can't say it enough, but playing on the national team [this summer], it has helped Brittany tremendously. She comes back from these weekends and we're like, 'Oh my gosh, I don't know how you got better in two days, but you did.' I give them all the credit in the world because they have done a tremendous job with Brittany and with Mikey as well. They come back from those weekends and you can really see the improvement. They carry themselves with more confidence. I think those coaches have been doing a great job. I'd encourage any of our players to try out for the national team. That group of coaches is a really special group. I can only speak for Brittany and Mikey, but I've watched them come back from these weekends and they're getting it. They're better players for playing on that team, which is what you hope for as a college coach. You want them to be learning new things to do. So I have seen a real difference in the two of them."

Rival Coaches Say

"They have more experience than anyone else in the country. Seniors tend to play like seniors and they've got a whole team of them."

— Rival D-I coach

"They're the most veteran team in the country. All seniors and a couple of sophomores mixed in there, and they have more experience than anyone else in the country. At every position they're strong and you gain that level of confidence that they play with. Seniors tend to play like seniors and they've got a whole team of them...

"They are returning all their big guns. That first big recruiting class is now seniors. They have very high expectations, especially after a pretty disappointing loss in the semifinals. They play well together. They've been playing well together for a long time, and they are an extremely athletic team. It will be interesting to see how they do this year...

"Experience is hard to play against if you don't have it. That attack can beat you from everywhere. Brittany Dashiell, she's their X factor. They don't have any holes in that team... Mandee's obviously done a great job there and they just really gained a lot of momentum last year. They got some freshman in and added them to the core that they had together for two years, and that was their winning combo. It's been interesting to see them develop. It's amazing for us to be to compete against them. We're excited to have them on the schedule and in the conference. Brittany Dashiell is their top gun, but then you add in the freshmen that did so well, like Shannon Gilroy and Barry. And talk about the defense! Farrell and their goalie. They're going to be unbelievable top to bottom...

"They are in their fourth year, and they haven't graduated anybody... They continue to improve each year, and I think they are going to be really tough and very athletic. The pressure is on them this season."


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