Syracuse Lacrosse - Know Your Foe: The Florida Gators

In the national semi finals of the Women's NCAA Division 1 Lacrosse Championship Tournament, the fourth seeded and fourth ranked Syracuse University Orange women's lacrosse team makes its third ever appearance in the Final Four of the Women's NCAA Lacrosse Championship. Awaiting the Orange are the number one seeded and number one ranked Florida Gators women's lacrosse team. The two teams will square off at 5:30 today at LaValle Stadium in Stony Brook. The Orange women look to advance to their first ever championship game, as do the Gators who are making their second NCAA tournament and first Final Four appearance in only their third year as a D1 program.

Today's game will be the second meeting this season between the two teams this year and features Tewaaraton Award finalists Brittany Dashiell (Jr. Midfielder, FL) and Michelle Tumulo (Jr. Attack, SU).

The Syracuse Orange women made it to the final four thanks to a huge 17-16 comeback win against the North Carolina Tar Heels that featured some late game heroics by Michelle Tumulo and a fairly easy 15-5 win against the Dartmouth Big Green in the first round. This meeting between the Orange and the Gators is the third overall and the first in the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse won the first meeting between the two teams this season 12-11 in double overtime down in Gainsville. Syracuse was the last team to beat Florida this season, as the Gators have since reeled off fifteen straight.

The Florida Gators made it to the final four by breezing by Penn State 15-2 in the second round and squeaking out a 6-4 against the University of Albany in the first round. The Gators feature a couple of Central New York exports in Nora Barry of Marcellus and Mikey Meager of Liverpool. Meager was part of Coach Amanda O'Leary's first recruiting class and wasn't able to see what the finished lacrosse facilities at Florida would look like - they were still under construction. It may be surprising to some that Florida has managed to achieve such lofty heights (45-14, 2 NCAA appearances) in only three years, but it shouldn't, really. Spend a few million in football money to build a world class facility, hire a top notch coach and offer year round nice weather. Presto. Instant winner. Scariest part about the Florida Gators for the rest of the Women's Lacrosse world? There are no seniors on this team.



The Particulars

18-3, 8-0 Big East, At Large

19-2, 5-0 ALC Champions

Head Coach: Gary Gait (5th year, 59-23)

Head Coach: Amanda O'Leary (17th year, 207-79)

10th NCAA tournament appearance

2nd NCAA tournament appearance

Vital Statistics

Goals per Game: 15.00 (5)

Goals Per Game: 15.43 (3)

Goals Against Avg: 8.86 (10)

Goals Against Avg: 6.19 (1)

Scoring Margin: 6.14 (7)

Scoring Margin: 9.24 (1)

Ground Balls Per Game: 13.10 (87)

Ground Balls Per Game: 17.86 (15)

Caused TO per Game: 5.33 (85)

Caused TO per Game: 7.24 (48)

Draw Controls Per Game: 15.14 (6)

Draw Controls Per Game: 15.24 (5)

Scoring Leaders

Alyssa Murray (70g, 30a, 100p) (3)

Kitty Cullen (45g, 23a, 68p) (34)

Michelle Tumulo (48g, 41a, 89p) (10)

Ashley Bruns (43g, 23a, 66p) (43)

Katie Webster (38g, 15a, 53p) (92)

Brittany Dashiell (40g, 25a, 65p) (45)

Goal Keepers

Alyssa Constantino (.502 SP, 15-2) (2)

Mikey Meager (.539 SP, 16-2) (1)

Kelsey Richardson (.508 SP, 3-1)

Cara Canington (.486 SP, 3-0)

Common Opponents

Defeated North Carolina 17-16

Lost to North Carolina 11-9

Defeated Dartmouth 22-4

Defeated Dartmouth 20-4

Defeated Dartmouth 15-5 NCAA Tournament

Defeated Georgetown 22-11

Defeated Georgetown 12-9

Defeated Georgetown 7-6 Big East Tournament

Lost to Northwestern 11-9 (OT)

Defeated Northwestern 8-7

Defeated Northwestern 14-7 ALC Tournament

There isn't a lot of precedent to draw from in trying to pick a winner in this game. The two teams have played twice previously in Gainsville, with Florida winning 16-11 in 2011 and Syracuse winning 12-11 in double overtime this year. That Syracuse win was the last loss this season for the Gators, who come into this game on a 15 game winning streak. Florida's only other loss was in the season opener to common opponent North Carolina. Both teams were undefeated against Georgetown (it's happy hour somewhere, and Georgetown still sucks) and Dartmouth. Florida has two wins this season against Northwestern and Syracuse a loss.

So far, the Women's tournament has gone completely chalk with the exception of Penn State's upset of Towson - the nonimal 8/9 game , so not much of an upset - in the first round. On paper, this game favors Florida as they have the top ranked goalie (Mikey Meagher) and defense in the country. Offensively, the teams are a push in terms of national rankings, and while Alyssa Constantino in the number two goalie in the country, she and Kelsey Richardson are coming off an abysmal performance last week against North Carolina.

My head tells me that Florida should win this game. The stats and seeding say so. There are questions about the Orange team that need to be answered - can their defense and goalies bounce back after last week? Will the team be primed for a letdown after expending a lot of emotional energy coming back to win against North Carolina to earn the bus ride to Stony Brook for today's game?

I think what we'll see in this game is one of two things - the Orange keep it close in the first half and eke out a win in the second, or they come out flat and Florida blows the doors off. It's very possible that Florida wins in a close game, but if it is close, I just can't see the Orange not winning. I'll be pleasantly shocked if the Orange blow out the Gators to win. I'm going to call it 12-11 in double overtime for the Orange, because hey, it worked last time.

WJPZ 89.1 FM will have radio coverage and Orange All-Access will have audio only. No television coverage as far as I can tell, but the game will be available via streaming video from the NCAA. I'll be tweeting this game (and the Northwestern/Maryland game) live from LaValle Stadium in Stony Brorok at @mrbankies #NCAAWLaxFF weather and batteries permitting.

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