February 20, 2016
No. 11 Florida upset No. 2 North Carolina in a thriller Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill. (Andy Mead)
No. 11 Florida upset No. 2 North Carolina in a thriller Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill. (Andy Mead)

Pirreca Lifts Florida Over North Carolina in Key Upset 

from LaxMagazine.com staff reports | Twitter | Box Score

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – With a team-high five goals, standout freshman Sydney Pirreca led No. 11 Florida past No. 2 North Carolina 16-15 in a key upset win Saturday afternoon. The Gators scored four consecutive goals in a 10-minute span of the second half to advance to 3-0 on the season. 

"What a great team win," said Florida coach Mandee O'Leary. "This was a total team effort, from the players on the field to a bench that was outstanding this afternoon. The energy was fantastic today and it really comes down to the fact that everyone did their job."

Florida freshmen Sydney Pirreca and Lindsey Ronbeck accounted for seven goals in the game. Mollie Stevens tallied three goals, while Shayna Pirreca and Nicole Graziano added two goals apiece. Florida pressured aggressively on defense in a powerhouse battle in Chapel Hill, led by goalies Mary-Sean Wilcox (9) and Haley Hicklen (2) who recorded 11 saves. 

“We got 35 shots, which is plenty,” said Tar Heels coach Jenny Levy. “We need to finish our opportunities. We also had 14 turnovers, which means we need to take care of the ball a little bit better. I know we’ll use this opportunity to learn and get better. There were some really good things out there, but credit Florida [for a good game].”

Sophomore Marie McCool led the Tar Heel offense with a career-high six goals. Junior Molly Hendrick had four points, freshman Olivia Ferrucci scored twice and junior Sydney Holman had a goal and an assist. Carly Reed, Sammy Jo Tracy and Ela Hazar added single goals for UNC. Tracy collected 10 draw controls. Carolina won the draw battle 19-14, but it wasn't enough to hold off the Gators, who graduated draw specialist Shannon Gilroy. 

In the seven-year history between the Gators and Tar Heels, Florida locked up its second win, both coming in Tar Heel territory. The Gators start their season 3-0 for the second time in the program's young history and notched their second top-15 victory in as many ranked clashes so far this season.

While five Florida players registered multiple-goal games, Caroline Fitzgerald and Sydney DuPre led the Gators' defense with three caused turnovers each. DuPre made it three straight games with a defensive score for Florida, just her second career goal as a Gator.

North Carolina scored the first goal of the game and extended its lead to 5-1 and then again 8-4 before the Gators went on a scoring splurge with final four goals in the first half for an 8-8 tie. The youngest Pirreca had a hat trick in the first half and opened the second half scoring to hand the Gators a 9-8 advantage. 

Carolina and Florida traded scores before Shayna Pirreca found the back of the net at 20:18 to give the Gators a 12-11 lead they wouldn't relinquish. With Sydney Pirreca's fifh goal of the game, Florida extended the score to 14-11 and then 16-13 on DuPre's game winner. The Tar Heels scored the final two to narrow the Gators' lead, 16-15, but Taylor Bresnahan won the final draw to seal the deal for the Orange and Blue.

Florida returns home to face Dartmouth Feb. 27 at noon before heading to Syracuse for a Tuesday mid-week road game March 1. Carolina will return to action next Saturday at 1 p.m. against top-ranked Maryland.

Freshman Sydney Pirreca scored a team-high five goals to lift Florida over North Carolina. (Scott McCall)

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