UF soccer opens NCAA play

Published: Friday, November 11, 2011 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 11, 2011 at 10:00 p.m.

The Florida soccer team begins its quest for the 2011 NCAA Championship when the Gators host Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday in a first-round NCAA Tournament match starting at 7 at Pressly Stadium.


NCAA soccer

Who: Florida Gulf Coast (14-4-2) vs. Florida (16-7)
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Pressly Stadium
Radio: AM-850
Tickets: $7 for adults, $3 for children up to age 12 and senior citizens. The first 200 UF students with identification will be admitted free.

For a team that was not able to defend either its 2010 Southeastern Conference regular-season or tournament titles, the chance to begin a new quest for the biggest prize of all is exciting.

“I think it's awesome, actually,” said junior defender Kathryn Williamson. “The coaches came out and said, 'Well, you're zero and zero now.' So we've just got to come out with a new mentality and try as hard as we can, and that's what we're going to do.”

The eighth-ranked Gators (16-7), a No. 2 seed, are led by Williamson and junior midfielder/forward Erika Tymrak, their leading scorer. Both were recently named All-SEC first-team selections for the second year in a row.

UF is one of a league-record eight SEC teams to reach this year's tournament.

Tonight's match will be the second meeting between the teams this season. Five different Gators scored in a 5-0 home win back on Sept. 11.

But the Eagles figure to be fired up for this one. This is the school's first official NCAA postseason appearance in any Division I sport. FGCU received notification Aug. 11 that it is officially a Division I member after waiting out the four-year transition period.

The Gators are coming off a 3-2 loss to Auburn in the championship game of the SEC Tournament last Sunday, while the Eagles (14-4-2) won the Atlantic Sun Tournament in their first appearance with a 1-0, double-overtime win over Mercer.

UF, however, will have the home crowd on its side.

“Well I think it's nice to be at home simply because we were on the road for six days (at the SEC Tournament in Orange Beach, Ala.), and that takes a toll with school and trying to balance everything,” head coach Becky Burleigh said. “That's hard. So I'm excited that we're at home from that standpoint.

“I also think our crowds have been tremendous this year and the support for this team has been tremendous. I think that's an intimidating factor for other teams when they come here.”

Tonight's winner will face the winner of the UCF- FIU match in second-round action.

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