GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The Florida men’s lacrosse team is coming off its best season since 2010 and, with a lot key pieces – like SELC Rookie of the Year Maxwell Gravenstine – returning combined with some fresh faces on the coaching staff, optimism is running high in Gainesville.
With the season right around the corner, the Gators have their eyes set on taking the SELC title and earning themselves a trip to Salt Lax City for the 2019 MCLA National Championships powered by Under Armour.
The Gators face a loaded schedule this year featuring five opponents that finished in the final 2018 Under Armour MCLA Coaches Poll. After falling out of the
Top 25 in the final week (dropping to No. 28 nationally), the Gators hope to quickly rejoin the ranks of the nation’s best as the season progresses.
The Gators will open the season by traveling to Jacksonville in mid-January to take on in-state opponent North Florida in a preseason scrimmage. The
Ospreys made a big splash in their return to MCLA D-II play last year, and the match up will provide a valuable test for both teams before regular season play begins.
Come February, the Gators will play host to FGCU to kickoff regular season play. The Eagles are fresh off an SELC D-II championship game appearance and a trip to Nationals.
Florida then hits the road two weeks in a row, traveling to Baton Rouge to take on LSU and Oklahoma, then to Atlanta to meet Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt.
A few key non-conference matchups loom large in the month of March as the Gators will look to defend home field against Boston College and New Hampshire while taking on Texas at a neutral site in Tallahassee.
The final weeks of the regular season bring key SELC matchups both at home and on the road as Florida will take on Georgia, UCF, Miami and FSU in four consecutive weekends leading into the Easter break and the SELC Tournament.
|Jan. 19||at North Florida (Scrimmage)||TBA|
|Feb. 2||FLORIDA GULF COAST||2 p.m.|
|Feb. 8||at LSU||8 p.m.|
|Feb. 9||vs. Oklahoma %||3 p.m.|
|Feb. 15||at Georgia Tech||7 p.m.|
|Feb. 16||vs. Vanderbilt #||2 p.m.|
|Feb. 23||SOUTH FLORIDA *||3 p.m.|
|March 1||BOSTON COLLEGE||7:30 p.m.|
|March 15||NEW HAMPSHIRE||7 p.m.|
|March 17||vs. Texas ^||TBA|
|March 22||GEORGIA||7 p.m.|
|March 29||at Central Florida *||TBA|
|April 6||at Miami *||2 p.m.|
|April 12||FLORIDA STATE *||7:30 p.m.|
|April 26-28||SELC Tournament|
|May 6-11||2019 MCLA National Championships|
powered by Under Armour
* - indicates SELC Southeast division contest
% - indicates contest at Baton Rouge, La.
# - indicates contest at Atlanta, Ga.
^ - indicates contest at Tallahassee, Fla.
Path to Nationals
Protect Home Field: If the Gators can go undefeated at home, they will make some noise around the MCLA with big wins over Boston College, New Hampshire, Georgia and Florida State.
Go “Straight Up the Mountain”: Returning midfielders Jesse Clark and Tanner Woods are no stranger to this mindset, a mantra that the Gators have drawn on the past several seasons. The motto stems from the story of Lt. Commander Erik Kristensen, the former lacrosse player and hero of Operation Red Wings whose actions were described by Marcus Luttrell in Lone Survivor. With quick sticks and a fast-tempo offense, Coach Hanrahan will look to implement “guns-blazing” speed this year, and Florida should be the one of the most electric teams in the state.
Lock-Down D: Captain Noah Boldt and all-SELC veteran Matt Davis anchor the Gators’ defensive unit, which must be stout all season long if championship aspirations are to come to fruition. With super-sophomores Michael Connelly and Parker Beeson bolstering the defensive depth as well as the addition of some talented newcomers, the Gators’ D could be one of the top units in the country.
Players to Watch
Matt Valentine – M – Jr.
Valentine has a played a small role in the Gators offense since joining the team in 2017. Over the past two years, his six goals and five assists have all come in clutch situations for the Gators. Being a seasoned veteran for the team, Valentine eyes a bigger role in the Gators offense this year.
Hayden Parks – DM – Jr.
Parks is coming off a big second half where he found his way into the second defensive middie role. With the improvements to his ground balls and carrying abilities, Parks should fill the hole that MCLA All-American SSDM Drew Hadley left after graduating in 2018.
Mike Connelly – D – Soph.
Connelly is one of the Gators’ sneakiest players on defense. He can hide his stick in plain sight until just the right moment to pick off a pass and quickly flip the field by pushing the ball over the midfield line. With his quick feet and high lacrosse IQ, Connelly will be asked to step into a starter’s role following the graduation of senior captain Michael Myers.
With the additions to the coaching staff, a talented freshman class and an experienced head coach in Hanrahan, the Gators expect to have championship year.
“We have a lot of talented young guys who will get their share of playing time this year, and that will bolster a group of hard-working and accomplished returners with some much-needed depth,” said Hanrahan. “In addition to that, we have some of the most talented goalies I’ve ever had the privilege of coaching. It’s invaluable to have multiple netminders who compete everyday like starters and who make the guys around them better.”
“We have the pieces to be a championship team this year,” added Hanrahan. “We’ll have to see now if this group is willing to put in the work and make the sacrifices required to turn that potential into results. Our eyes are certainly set on a trip to Salt Lake City and a chance to take our place among the MCLA’s elite programs.”