My name is Cara Canington, and I’m a junior goalkeeper on the Florida Lacrosse team.  I will be blogging about my crazy, silly teammates and our experiences that you as fans may not always get to hear about in the sports media world.  But first, here’s a little background: The Florida Gator Women’s Lacrosse team started as a Division I program just three years ago, and we have really grown since that inaugural season.  Reaching a top 5 ranking in the polls, winning our conference during the regular season, and receiving a bid to the NCAA tournament are just a few accomplishments we have earned in our first two seasons.  With this year looking bright, we have our eyes on the ultimate prize, a 2012 NCAA Championship.

Starting the team from the ground up gave us the chance to build our own team culture.  We had to make our own traditions and pave the way for future players to come.  Tailgates are a huge tradition in football, but lacrosse is also known to throw a good game-day party.  Our parents set up tents, chairs, and food so that we can all relax and eat with family and friends after games.  Our parents are incredible with organizing the events and we always have a place to gather whether it’s rain or shine, home or away.  This is such an amazing tradition because it gives everyone a chance to become part of a big lacrosse family and feel like they are a part of the program.  Another fun and unique tradition we have after away games is goodie bags, which are full of snacks, activities, and travel essentials.  Since most lacrosse teams aren’t established in the southeast, we have to fly across the east coast for games and need food and fun to help pass time during the trip.  Our parents are awesome and put together game-day tailgates and treats, giving our program a type of chemistry that extends beyond the players and coaches.

There are also a few annual events that we all look forward to.  Since we have to stay in Gainesville for spring break, it’s a tradition to have a team cookout, and compete in backyard games like the egg toss or corn hole, which all get pretty competitive.  We also have a Halloween practice every year and we come dressed in costumes to play Halloween lacrosse games in hopes of winning candy.  This year, seven “grandmas” showed up to test their lacrosse skills.  Also, Coach Mandee opens up her home every Christmas and we all take part in a Secret Santa gift exchange.  While we work hard year-round on the field, some of these traditions help to keep the atmosphere relaxed and fun.

Being a part of the start to a Division 1 lacrosse program is an incredible and unique experience.  We all take pride in the fact that every person on the team has bought into a dream and is continually working hard every day to achieve it.  Florida feels like home to us, and we are all so lucky and blessed to be at an incredible institution with the best coaches, teachers, support staff, facilities, and families.  UF athletics are the real deal, and we are so excited to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.  I hope this blog helps you all see how much we truly cherish our opportunities here, and how much fun we have accomplishing our goals together.