by Matthew Lange | Special to MCLA.us
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida men's lacrosse team started the 2020 season with a win, but a rugged road trip has the Gators regrouping heading into mid-February.
Florida started the season with a convincing, 13-2 win over in-state foe North Florida. Nine different Gators scored goals while eleven players recorded points, allowing Garrett Hanrahan a good first look at his roster.
Florida’s defense smothered the Osprey offensive effort, allowing just six shots on goal for the entire game -- a testament to the tenacity and leadership of the newly elected defensive captains.
The Gators followed that up with the first away trip of the season. The Gators packed up the bus Saturday morning and headed north to Athens, Ga. for a SELC rivalry matchup against Georgia.
A few days of wintery weather caused the game to be moved to Lambert High School in Suwanee, Ga., hours before faceoff. For the home-grown Gators on Florida’s roster, this was the first time they’d ever been a part of a snow game.
The cold sand couldn’t stop the Gators from giving the Bulldogs a fight. The back-and-forth battle ended with Georgia winning by two, 10-8, but sophomore Nolan Testa and freshman Michael Fox recorded hat tricks giving the Gators some momentum heading into South Carolina.
On Sunday, the defending national champions hosted the Gators in a much warmer climate. The Gators scored first but, after the Cocks answered with a six-goal run, the Gators found themselves working to dig out of a hole the rest of the way.
Despite finding their footing defensively after the rough start -- Florida held the Gamecocks to two goals per quarter for the remainder of the game -- and outscoring the champs 5-4 in the second and third quarter, Florida ultimately couldn’t match South Carolina’s 60-minute effort, falling 12-6.
Freshmen Tyler Harry, Ben Maenza, Kolten Mortimer, and Mac Crici alongside sophomore Hunter Bitner continued the trend of young guns producing the lion’s share of points for the Gator offense.
“Going 0-2 on a road trip is never fun,” Hanrahan said. “We don’t step on that bus thinking we’re going to come back empty-handed, but sometimes you play your butt off and you still get beat. Credit to Georgia for adjusting to the conditions a bit better than we did. Hopefully we get another crack at them in April in Atlanta.
"Credit to South Carolina and what they’ve built as a program. They play relentlessly wire-to-wire and their success reflects that. Results aside, our team’s goal with early season road trips like this is to get better. There are guys on our team, especially the younger guys, who still need to learn how to play fearlessly in big games against truly challenging opponents.
"We still need to find out who on our team wants the ball when the lights are bright and a play needs to be made. We didn’t solve any of that this weekend, but we got closer to solving it. On Saturday night, we learned that taking care of the ball and winning the possession battle makes all the difference, especially when the weather slows the game down. On Sunday, we realized that we can play with the top-ranked team in the country for 3 quarters. Now, we get back to work and strive towards being able to do that for 4 quarters.”
Florida returns to Gainesville for matchups against defending LSA conference champion Louisiana State and East Carolina this weekend.