The No. 2 Florida Gators will cross the Ohio river to meet the Cincinnati Bearcats Wednesday in a crucial Big East conference game. This is the first visit ever to Cincinnati for the Gators. With a win against Cincinnati, it sets up a Big East regular conference championship game with the UConn Huskies on Sunday, April 24.
The Florida Gators (14-1) entered the season with questions on the offensive side of the ball. They lost the offensive fire power of senior Shannon Gilfroy, providing 76 goals last year (No 2. in nation). Where were the Gators going to find offense without Shannon Gilfroy? The Gators displayed their ability to score—averaging 13.13 goals a game (No. 16 in the nation) led by Nicole Grazziano with 32 goals. Though Grazziano is just one worry for any defense facing Florida with Sammi Burgess (27 goals), Shanya Pirreca (24 goals), and Lindsey Ronbeck (24 goals). This balanced attack finds opponents in a nightmare as the Gators have many different players capable of dissecting defenses with seven players with double digits in the goal category. Though what helps the Gators offense is their incredible possession skills limiting turnovers to 11.4 a game (No. 7 in the nation).
The Gators win games by their spectacular defense. They allow only 7.33 goals per game (No. 12 in the nation). With a defense that doesn’t cause many turnovers—only enforcing 8.4 a game, this could become a problem as the Gators find themselves turning the ball over three more times a game then they force. The Gators have solid forces in the goaltending department in Mary-Sean Wilcox and Haley Hicken. Between the two of them, their save percentage is .507 (No. 10 in the nation). With this defense, the Gators present a challenge for their opposition to keep up averaging a victory margin of 5.8 goals (No. 10 in the nation). Coach O’Leary believes that the team has overall matured on defense.
The Cincinnati Bearcats (4-10) come in to this contest on an eight-game skid. The Bearcats have struggled keeping up with their opponents, but do have a star player in Megan Bell. She leads the team with a total of 24 goals, adding 13 assists, totaling 37 points. The Bearcats ability to score is limited averaging 7.57 points per game (No. 100 in the nation). Besides Megan Bell, only one other player has totaled for more than 20 goals, senior Courtney Curtis. The Bearcats struggle taking care of the ball averaging 16.71 turnovers per game (No. 90 in the nation). With these struggles to find the back of the net consistently by any player, the Bearcats need someone to step up against the Florida Gators or keep this to a low scoring game and keep the turnovers to a minimum.
The Bearcats have a defense that keeps them in the game. They allow 9.36 goals per game (No.39 in the nation). They also force 9.79 turnovers a game (No. 20 in the nation) and there are few better in the nation than Kyara Byner causing 2.36 turnovers a game (No. 12 in the nation) herself. Their goaltender Meg Gulmi is not to shabby with a save percentage .471 (No. 32 in the nation). The Bearcats have potential to keep the Gators from running up the score, though they have to be able to contain all the Gator scorers.
Coach O’Leary says the seniors are keeping the team from overlooking this game. Stats can shed a little light on a match up, but what matters most is what happens on the field at noon this Wednesday, April 20 when these two teams clash.