CW: You previewed this matchup as the best game of the 2013 regular season. What were your factors that went into your choice?
DB: These are two of the most athletic teams in Division I. Both like to push the pace and score in transition and feature some outstanding talent on the offensive side of the ball -- players with flair who can definitely get style points in the ways they score. The semifinal between these two last year was one of the best of last season, which was another big factor.
CW: How important is it for Syracuse to start off on the right note and play a complete game against Florida on Saturday? It took the Orange the entire first half to figure out Virginia's slower style of play and had had to play from behind at the start of the second half.
DB: I think it's always necessary to start off on the right note and set the tone for the type of game you want to play and dictate the pace. Syracuse has shown they can fight their way back into games, even against a team like Florida so I don't think I would be entirely worried if they opened in a 4-1 hole. That being said, I wouldn't want to leave anything to chance against the Gators and I think coming out strong early is important.
CW: Talk about Florida's veteran experience/leadership at each position with Brittanny Dashiell (midfield), Kitty Cullen (attack) and its stout defense anchored by Sam Farrell and goalie Mikey Meagher.
DB: Most teams have a star player or two -- Florida has a roster of them, particularly with that senior class. They were the first players in the program, they've been playing together for more than three years now and they all complement each other extremely well. Dashiell is one of the best all-around midfielders in the game. Cullen is a monster athlete who goes harder to goal than most attackers you see. Defensively is where I think they don't get as much press as they should because that unit is solid. Farrell is obviously the leader, but Jamie Reeg certainly can't be overlooked either. They communicate and slide well and they don't allow many looks in the middle.
CW: Florida seems a bit more stable when it comes to the goalie position with Meagher than Syracuse with Costantino and Richardson. Do you think this can pose a problem not only for this game, but come tournament time?
DB: Complete to Syracuse, Florida's goalie situation is definitely more concrete. However, cach Mandee O'Leary pulled Meagher in the second half against Stony Brook and freshman Mary Sean Wilcox was able to give the defense a little spark. That's more of an isolated incident whereas Syracuse uses both Costantino and Richardson with consistency. I don't think it poses a problem -- for opponents of Syracuse, it means you have to scout two goalies heading into the matchup and know where to put your shots for each one. Both teams are familiar with the other other's goalie situation and will be prepared to handle whatever scenario they're dealt with on Saturday.
CW: This game will be part of a larger event at SunLife Stadium in Miami, FL, and will showcase a Division I men's matchup in Army and Michigan, too. The Sunshine State is really shaping up to be a lacrosse hub with up-and-coming lacrosse programs in Rollins, Florida Southern and of course, Florida. Talk about the exposure Florida is getting hosting these games.
DB: It's fantastic! You're absolutely right that Florida is becoming a hotbed for the sport -- and with the start of the season inching earlier into February each year, it's no wonder major events are being held in the Sunshine State while the east coast and midwest are still getting pummeled by snow. These events are great exposure for the sport though. It's growing at the youth and high school levels as well, so having high-level college and pro lacrosse events in the area is a great opportunity for some of those younger players to see the game at its highest level.
DB: I'm taking Florida over Syracuse in a slightly less dramatic affair than their meeting last May -- 12-10 Gators.