Beast of Big East

Gators three-peat as Big East regular-season champions

Florida's Sammi Burgess drives around a defender Saturday against Georgetown at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

Brad McClenny/Staff Photographer
Published: Saturday, April 29, 2017 at 9:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 29, 2017 at 9:24 p.m.

With sole possession of the Big East title on the line, the Gators lacrosse team was looking to make a stand on defense.


Up next

What: Big East Tournament

Who: Top seed Florida (15-2) vs. No. 4 seed Temple (13-4)

When: 4:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Philadelphia

And after an early back-and-forth, it was Florida goalkeeper Haley Hicklen providing the decisive defensive stand.

Tied early at two goals apiece with Georgetown, Florida locked down on defense and concluded Saturday's match with a 13-1 goal-scoring run to down the Hoyas and clinch their seventh consecutive conference title and third straight Big East trophy with a 15-3 win at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

“I was really, really proud of every one of them. Everybody worked hard all week,” Gators coach Amanda O'Leary said. “Just really proud of this entire team coming together and realizing that this is how we need to go into the postseason, as an entire unit.”

With the two programs looking to close out the regular season, the Gators (15-2 overall, 9-0 Big East) had a battle on their hands as Florida traded goals with Georgetown in the opening minutes. The Hoyas (9-8, 7-2) drew the score even and appeared to have momentum on their side, but Hicklen soon quelled the attacking effort. The sophomore from Baltimore would go on to save nine of Georgetown's 12 shots on goal, with just a lone goal allowed in the game's final 55 minutes.

“She was fantastic,” O'Leary said of Hicklen. “She is the backbone of that defense, and she's just come on big. I'm so proud of what she's done for us.”

Meanwhile, Florida's attack was off to a blazing pace. Led by Allie Pavinelli and Sydney Pirreca, UF entered the halftime break with an 8-2 lead. Pavinelli, who would finish with a hat trick to bring her to 11 goals on the season, opened the second-half scoring for the Gators.

With the regular season having reached its conclusion, Florida has two days of preparation before opening the Big East tournament Thursday in Philadelphia.

But much of the focus Saturday was on Florida's eight seniors playing their final game in Gainesville.

“This senior class took me in right away,” Pirreca said. “All the seniors have been amazing, they're so talented and they're so great at helping one another.”

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