Florida's First Final Four Berth on the Line

One win away from the program's first trip to the Final Four in its third season, the Florida lacrosse athletes aren't surprised about the program's early success. Most have seen it coming since they stepped on campus three years ago. Every year has seen improvement, and the No. 1 Gators host Penn State, who they defeated earlier this year, on Saturday with a berth in the Final Four on the line.

"It hasn't really been surprising," junior Brittany Dashiell said. "Last year, we had a pretty successful season and the freshmen have come in and helped us out a lot. I think our team—since we've been together and played together since our freshman year—we've been together and know how each other plays."

There's familiarity between the two teams that will play in Gainesville on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Florida secured a 20-11 win over Penn State on April 1. With just over a month and a half separating Saturday's matchup and the first time the two squared off, the Gators have made some adjustments to make sure its not too familiar for the Nittany Lions.

They're expecting the same from Penn State.

"We've come up with a newer offense with new plays and different ways to attack the goal, so they can't predict how we're going to go to the goal or what we're going to do," Dashiell said. "We're going to bring out something completely new so that they don't know what to expect."

Florida outshot Penn State 43-22 in the first meeting, including a 25-10 margin in the first half that produced an 11-6 lead for the Gators at halftime. Florida also led the drawn controls by a 23-9 count.

"At this point in the season, we're two different teams from where we were before," Meagher said. "They've grown and we've grown. We'll be looking for a very exciting game. They have a lot of threats offensively and defensively. It should be a good matchup."

"It's a whole new, completely different team," Bruns said. "They're coming out with fire and get another shot at playing us and hopefully beating us this time. Hopefully we'll come out with another win."

The Gators secured a 6-4 win over Albany last weekend to advance to this round. Albany used stall tactics to slow the high-powered offense of the Gators, and it could provide a blue print for how to counter what Florida does on offense.

That's not likely to come this weekend. Florida players said they expect a quick tempo from Penn State, but if things are slowed down, the Gators learned a lot from last weekend.

"It's definitely a challenge," Meagher said. "You want to make sure you stay up and communicate to the defense. They're out there running around, so I just tell myself to talk positively to them. It keeps me up and stay ready for the shot."

The Gators will go into Saturday with their eyes on history. The program's first appearance in the Final Four would be a nice way for the juniors to make their mark on the program with bigger goals still left on the board.

"It'd be huge," Dashiell said. "We've never done it before. Three years to get to the Final Four would be a big accomplishment for us. That has been the goal for us and the team. Hopefully we'll get there and win it all."

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