Elon University women's lacrosse (2-5) fell to the University of Florida Gators (2-3) 15-5, handing the Phoenix its fourth consecutive loss of its grueling out-of-conference schedule.
This game was a physical matchup in which the Phoenix defense stood strong against the former No. 16 team in the nation. But the defensive effort from redshirt-sophomore goalie Paulina DiFatta and company was not strong enough to make up for the lack of offense.
“Our offense needs to step up," said head coach Josh Hexter after the game. "Offense is playing scared, and we’re not running our stuff. Offense needs to step up. Defense is doing a good job, our goalie is playing great. Our offense needs to step up."
Elon’s offensive attack, which averages about 10.5 goals per game, was held to five goals and only 20 shots on goal, a mark doubled by the Gators on the other side.
The challenges for the Phoenix offense were made worse by the lack of opportunities with the ball. The Gators controlled the possession and the pace of the game through their dominance on the draws, winning 17 draws to Elon’s five.
“We've got to get back to practice and push each other on the draw in practice, and that will help us improve on draws,” said sophomore midfielder Quinn Daly.
The matchup to watch from the start was Florida’s senior attacker Lindsey Ronbeck and DiFatta. Ronbeck averaged 4.75 goals per game, a mark that was tied for fifth best in the country ahead of her matchup with DiFatta and the Phoenix.
Despite the Gators efforts to get Ronbeck the ball early, a handful of saves by DiFatta coupled with good defensive strategy kept the Florida attacker scoreless for 17 minutes of the opening half. Ronbeck finished with only two goals before she was ejected for culminating two yellow cards.
But even with the loss of their leading scorer, the Gators were able to score in bunches by their fast break offense and their efficient backdoor cutting scheme. This combination speed and skill racked up 40 shots and resulted in 15 goals for the former top-25 team.
“They were fast. They saw the open looks in the middle,” DiFatta said. “We just need to keep on doing what we’re doing. I think we did really great on the defensive end. We just need to move forward from this loss.”
On the other side of the ball, the Phoenix were still able to turn out some offensive production. Sophomore midfielder Mae McGlynn continued her streak of seven consecutive games with a goal when she found the back of the net from the free position to give the Phoenix its first point of the game. Freshman attacker Kaley Thompson was back in action after missing the Duke game, and though she didn't score, her three early shots on goal gave the offense energy early on in the game.
Despite the ups and downs from the Phoenix offense, one of the biggest takeaways from the battle against Florida was the Phoenix's ability to play as a team. By the end of the game, all five goals had been scored by five different players, including sophomore attacker Meri Curtin and freshman attacker Peighton Stone, who earned their first goals of the season. Daly says this diversity of scorers is a testament to the offense’s talent and chemistry as a unit.
“We trust each other so well because we know how much talent we have, and so whenever it's in someone’s stick, we know that they can score and put it in the back of the net," Daly said. "I think that having all different people score is a big positive and power of ours."
The Phoenix continues its stretch of elite opponents when it takes on the No. 3-seeded University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tar Heels at 6 p.m. March 12 at Rudd Field.