BRADENTON, Fla. – A lot is at stake this weekend, but more is at stake this summer.

The first day of the annual Team USA Spring Premiere at IMG Academy featured the best 25 players in the country competing for one of just 18 roster spots, plus two alternates, who will play in the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup in Guildford, England, this July.

The U.S. women’s national team defeated Florida 20-19, despite a quick lead for the Gators just 59 seconds into the game. Team USA led 11-8 at halftime, but the turning point came with under 13 minutes left to play when Florida went on a five-goal hot streak, sparked by Mollie Stevens with back-to-back goals and capped with a Shayna Pirreca tally to tie it 17-17.

Taylor Cummings (Maryland 2016) broke the scoring drought for Team USA and Marie McCool (North Carolina 2018) scored the game-winning goal, yet while this weekend is the last tryout to make the World Cup roster, the U.S. women need to play more like a team.

“Because of what we went through today, tomorrow will be really telling about who hides, who plays safe or who says, ‘That’s over. Move forward,” said Team USA coach Ricky Fried. “This is what it’s like in a World Cup. It’s really hard, mentally, emotionally and physical games and you got to wake up in the morning and play again.”

Here are five takeaways from Team USA’s dramatic win over Florida:

1. The ride is relentless, but not perfect.

Florida coach Amanda O’Leary watched her starting freshman defender Cara Trombetta secure a loose ball as she made eye contact with the sidelines.

“Just run!” O’Leary said with a laugh. “Do the best you can!”

Team USA caused 14 turnovers in the first half (22 total), many thanks to the signature “Aces” ride implemented by Fried with doubles coming from every direction and the goalie playing outside of her crease marking the lowest attacker.

“They certainly made us pay for it in the first half,” said O’Leary. “Their ride is just smothering. … But it is high risk, high reward. Nine times out of 10, they get the ball back, but every once in a while you get lucky and you can move the ball down and score.”

Those lucky moments left attackers open in the midfield for the long pass downfield – or allowed for a SportsCenter Top 10 moment when senior defender Caroline Fitzgerald made a Hail Mary pass toward an open net and scored right at the buzzer to end the first half. While Fried was less concerned with the few goals on an open net, including Fitzgerald’s – he credited Florida’s execution of their game plan – dictating the game was a priority for Team USA.

“We need to take care of the ball better and we need to make sure we protect the middle of the field better overall on the ride,” said Fried. “I thought Florida did an exceptional job of working to get what they wanted, meaning their dominant hand. … They challenged us and fought a little bit harder to get what they want as opposed to us dictating what we’re going to give them.”

2. Florida exposed holes in Team USA’s defense.

Florida assistant Taryn VanThof, who has been a member of Team USA, approached O’Leary with the concept that the Gators have just 23 seconds to score, or the doubles would come from the high intensity defense, a staple of the U.S. program.

“Our whole premise behind practice was how fast can we score?” said O’Leary. “We went into a high risk, high reward, so if we were going to score quickly, we were going to do that, and if not, we were going to pay the price.”

Their speed and scoring abilities shined most in the five-goal run. Mollie Stevens kicked it off with back-to-back goals, then Lindsey Ronbeck, Sammi Burgess and Shayna Pirecca each got one. Pirecca’s goal came after a Team USA timeout that ignited the Florida sideline. The Gators later took the lead with a Burgess goal dished over the head of goalie Liz Hogan with nearly five minutes left on the clock.

“We got frantic,” Fried said. “In the first half, when we actually had that stretch when we picked it up and had a larger lead, I think we lost mental focus and got too lackadaisical and made simple mistakes and they kept fighting … We need to realize it doesn’t matter how well or badly we did. We have to move to the next play right away, be decisive and not worry.”

3. The coaching staff has some clarity about the offense.  

Today’s matchup was a high-scoring affair, but who stood out offensively?

Cummings, Danielle Etrasco (Boston University 2013), McCool and Kylie Ohlmiller (Stony Brook 2018) each tallied a hat trick, while Alex Aust (Maryland 2013), Brooke Griffin (Maryland 2015) and Kayla Treanor (Syracuse 2016) had two goals. Katie Schwarzmann (Maryland 2013) and Cortney Fortunato (Notre Dame 2017) added one apiece.

Entering this weekend, Fried noted that the offense was the toughest position to cut when determining the final World Cup roster. There are eight attackers in the mix – Aust, Etrasco, Fortunato, Griffin, Alyssa Murray (Syracuse '14), Ohlmiller, Treanor and Michelle Tumolo (Syracuse '13). However, he and his coaching staff now have some clarity as to who might lead the offense best this summer. Names were not disclosed, but specific evaluation topics were.

“Who’s listening, who’s not listening, who’s executing – those are the things that are more clear right now,” Fried said.

4. The draw game needs to be cleaner.

Ally Carey (Vanderbilt 2012), Cummings, and Shannon Gilroy (Florida 2015) are Team USA’s draw specialists, but Fried said Cummings is their primary one. However to him, it’s more important to solidify play after the draw is taken.

International rules place four players per team on the circle, which is eight total surrounding the two draw specialists in the center. Once the ball flies in the air or drops to the ground, it’s a battle of the fittest. Yet, Florida got the best of Team USA in some instances.

“It becomes a little bit of a cluster in the circle if you don’t box out,” Fried said. “Everybody’s pretty athletic so they fight to get to the middle, then it’s just a scrum and that’s not something [we want]. We need to be a little cleaner in boxing out and then come up with loose balls. We bobbled a lot, we pushed a lot around and we didn’t come out of the pack hard with the ball.”

5. The response is crucial.

Fried’s biggest takeaway? Look to Sunday. Team USA has a quick turnaround, facing Notre Dame at 10 a.m.

“The response from today that we get tomorrow – that was our challenge tonight,” said Fried. “We should disappointed in the standard we played at today, and that doesn’t take anything away from how Florida played, but that disappointment ends when we get out of the ice baths and we go forward.

“So, who can mentally do that? Who is not only going to challenge themselves, but challenge their teammates? That’s the hardest thing right now. They’re not all really teammates because they’re here for a selection. The people that get past that, ironically, are the ones that are able to be a part of that team.”

Fried and his coaching staff – Amy Bokker, Liz Robertshaw and Jess Wilk – will be looking for players who expect more out of everyone on the field. The key is not to continually challenge friends or those who were college teammates.

“Make sure that we play to the standard that we play to ourselves,” said Fried. “That is the biggest thing that we learned. We learned today that there are other really athletic teams that fight and that we have a target on our back because everyone is going to give us their best opportunity, so we have to mentally be prepared.”

The mental piece is important. Once the final 18 are selected, it’s easier for a player to not worry if and how she is playing. But if she is thinking about that now, Fried said she’ll likely think about it later. That’s a key part of the evaluation.

“It’s challenging when everybody knows this is what’s at stake,” said Fried. “As we evaluate that, that’s part of it because there’s a lot at stake this summer. When things are at a crossroads, or when things get tough, how do people respond, and individually, how do they respond for themselves and how do they respond with each other?”

Team USA is always about the team, even if this weekend is a tryout.