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2018 Big East Women’s Lacrosse Semifinals Preview: #1 Florida vs #4 Marquette

The Golden Eagles face the tournament favorite Gators in their first postseason game in program history.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Florida vs Arkansas Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

2018 Big East Women’s Lacrosse Tournament Semifinals

#1 Florida Gators vs #4 Marquette Golden Eagles

Date: Thursday, May 3, 2018
Time: 3pm Central
Location: Donald R. Dizney Stadium, Gainesville, FL
Streaming: Big East Digital Network on Fox Sports Go
Live Stats: Sidearm Stats
Twitter Updates: @MarquetteWLax
Regular Season Meeting: Florida won, 18-6
All Time Series: Florida leads, 4-0

Let’s focus on the good news and warm feelings about Thursday afternoon’s Big East tournament semifinal game before we dive into anything else. This is Marquette’s first ever Big East tournament appearance in five seasons as a member of the league and first ever postseason appearance in six seasons as a Division 1 program. Marquette has already set program records for wins in a season and for Big East wins in a season, and at 10-7 right now, MU has already clinched a winning record for the first time in program history.

2018 has been a raging success by any possible means of measurement, and we should all tip our cap to head coach Meredith Black, her staff, and her team. It’s been a joy to see them get to this point of this season, as well as this point in the development of the program.

Alrighty then. Wanted to make sure we got all of that out of the way before we move on to actual preview stuff, because I’m going to have to say something in the next sentence and I’m sure you’re looking forward to reading it just about as much as I am to writing it.

Marquette is probably not coming anywhere close to winning this game.

Florida is REALLY good, and the Gators have been giving Marquette fits for years.

The two teams have met as league opponents four times, one time each in the past four regular seasons. The very first meeting was the closest of the four encounters, as Marquette briefly took a 2-1 lead very early on before trailing 8-3 at the half and falling 16-5. The next three games were less competitive. In 2016, Florida got out to a 15-0 lead, including shutting Marquette out 12-0 at halftime. In 2017, it was 8-1 at the 11:45 mark in the first half before the Gators finally won 21-7. Earlier this season, the Gators harkened back to 2016 and exploded out to an 11-1 start in the first 15 minutes of the game. That one might have been the one that stung the most, as both MU and UF were 5-0 in Big East action to that point in the season.

In other words: You can make the argument that this is the best of Meredith Black’s six Marquette teams, and yet this one had the worst time staying with Florida.

This will be the final meeting between the two squads as members of the Big East, as Florida will be leaving to become an associate member of the American Athletic Conference when they start sponsoring women’s lacrosse in 2019. As such, I would imagine that the Gators will be properly motivated to close things out in strong fashion. If that 11-1 start earlier this season is an example of what this year’s Florida team looks like when they’re properly motivated, then this first venture into the postseason for the Golden Eagles is probably going to end fairly quickly.

One thing that Marquette is going to have to do if they want to have a chance to win is limit Florida’s free position attempts. Skyler Gilbert of College Crosse put together some stats the other day, and UF was at the time #10 in the country in terms of the percentage of their goals that come on the FPS attempt. Just short of 30% of their goals are a result of a foul inside the fan. Against Marquette earlier this season, five of Florida’s first 13 goals were FPS goals. Now, it’s not like the game would have been very close at 8-2 without those five goals. But Marquette has to find any advantage they can get if they want to shock the system on Thursday afternoon, and that means not letting the Gators’ offense do things it so very much wants to do.

One final note. Grace Gabriel is sitting on 54 goals on the season and 114 goals for her career. That leaves her one short of Julianna Shearer’s records for both. Gabriel got exited from the regular season matchup with the Gators by way of two yellow cards in the first 23 minutes of the game, and as a result, she didn’t record a goal in that one. She’ll need one to tie and two to break both records, but the single season record is the important one here. Gabriel is a junior, and she’ll have a full set of 17 regular season games next season to smash past Shearer’s career mark.