Florida's lacrosse team had the regular season title from its first season in the Big East Conference sewn up before it even traveled to meet Connecticut in Storrs two weeks ago. But a bizarre second half left the Gators smarting after their first Big East loss ever.
History did not repeat itself on Saturday.
The Gators stormed to an 8-2 lead at one point in the first half, then poured on the pressure in the second half, finishing with an 20-6 victory over Connecticut and the program's first Big East Tournament title.
Devon Schneider led the Gators with five goals on the day, while Tewaaraton Award nominee Shannon Gilroy, named the Big East Tournament's Most Outstanding Player, added four, and Nora Barry chipped in three. Florida's assault produced 36 shots to UConn's 15 — and, with 16 in the first half and 20 in the second, more in either period than the Huskies took total.
The victory gives Florida a sweep of the Big East titles, something it managed twice in five seasons of play in the defunct American Lacrosse Conference. In six seasons of existence, the Gators have won a combined eight (of a possible 12) regular season and conference titles, and pulled off three sweeps.
And while this game completed that feat, the revenge — and the improvement — may have been more important. For a half of their first meeting with UConn on April 18, the Gators played like the dominant outfit that rampaged through the Big East prior to that day, taking an 8-1 lead to the break.
In the game's final 30 minutes, the Gators coughed up the entirety of that margin, first by allowing a 6-0 run in the first nine minutes of the second half, and then by allowing a 3-0 UConn run to finish it after taking a 10-8 lead with 12:39 to play. The game was notably physical, and Florida lost ace defender Mollie Stevens to a second yellow card early in the second half, but there's still not much positive to take away from blowing a seven-goal lead.
There's a lot more good to take away from coming back to the same field two weeks later and hammering the same team by 14 goals — and, instead of wilting in the second half, outscoring that other side by 10.
Florida gets the Big East's automatic bid to the 2015 NCAA Tournament, which is nice, but the Gators also get the satisfaction of knowing that they can beat a team in a rematch. That might be important in NCAA Tournament play, with the other four teams to hand Florida losses in 2015 likely to be among the field's top seeds.
Of course, the Gators get to take away a trophy, too, if you're into tangible things.