Maryland hosts the third-best team in the country Wednesday, as the Florida Gators come to College Park. Florida comes in on an eight-game winning streak, with its only loss coming against North Carolina to begin the year. Meanwhile, despite being the best team in the country, Maryland continues to improve game after game.
Florida’s offense has potentially been the most dominant unit in the country. The Gators have scored 15 goals seven times this season and 20 goals three times, including 92 goals in their last five games. However, Maryland has beaten Florida in each of the last two seasons by a combined score of 30-10.
Wednesday’s game will air on the Big Ten Network at 2 p.m.
No. 3 Florida Gators (8-1)
Head Coach Amanda O’Leary. The Gators head coach is the one of the best coaches in the country, sporting a win percentage of nearly 75 percent in her coaching career. Under O’Leary, Florida has a 122-30 record, averaging 16 wins per season.
Players to Watch
Shayna Pirreca, 5’4, attack, No. 7. The junior leads the Gators with 42 points, and is second in goals with 32. She’s scored at least a hat trick in eight of Florida’s nine games and registered five points in each of her last five contests.
Mollie Stevens, 5’7, attack, No. 17. Stevens is Florida’s leader in goals with 33, and comes third on the team in points with 39. She is also sixth in the country with 3.67 goals per game, and she’s scored 19 goals combined in her last four games. Her 18 caused turnovers and 55 draw controls both lead the team as well.
Caroline Fitzgerald, 5’3, defense, No. 11. While Florida’s offense is explosive, Fitzgerald is leading their defense. Her 27 ground balls lead the team and her 12 caused turnovers comes in third. Last year, she was the Big East Defender of the Year and a unanimous All-Big East first team selection.
Haley Hicklen, 5’9, goalkeeper, No.29. Florida’s net-minder has been stellar this year, putting up a .503 save percentage that ranks 11th in the country. Last time out, Hicklen saved 60 percent of the shots she faced, her second-best performance of the season.
Scoring offense. The Gators lead the nation in scoring offense, coming in with 16.67 goals a game. This will be the best offense Maryland has seen this year, giving their stifling defense a huge test.
Draw controls. Florida has been successful during draws this year, winning 15.11 draw controls a game. Maryland needs to be on the top of its game in this area to prevent spending too much time in their own zone, something that happens more often than it should.
Free positions. While Florida’s normal offense is strong, their free position offense has been subpar. Their .385 free-position percentage ranks only 67th in the nation, giving the Terps the ability to play physical in their zone to try and stop this potent offense.
Three things to watch
- Mirror image. This game features two offenses averaging over 15 goals a game, two of the best defenders in the game and two top goalkeepers. Florida presents the balance offensively and personnel defensively that Maryland also offers every game, something the Terps themselves haven’t seen since North Carolina.
- Star power. There are 12 members of the Tewaaraton Award watch list present between these two teams. Additionally, 12 combined players have scored at least 10 goals and 10 players have recorded at least 20 points this season.
- May preview? As good as these teams are, this may not be the last time they face each other this year. Last season, Florida was upset in the second round and Maryland lost in the national championship, so both teams are out to avenge difficult tournament exits. They may just meet each other at the finish line.