UF soccer opens season against Hurricanes

UF’s Becky Burleigh, the only coach in program history, is entering her 18th season with the Gators and 23rd overall.

Matt Stamey/ Staff photographer
Published: Friday, August 17, 2012 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 9:33 p.m.

Are you ready for some futbol?


Season opener

Who: Miami at Florida
When: Today, 7 p.m.
TV: Sun Sports
Radio: AM-850
Where: James G. Pressly Stadium

The Florida women’s soccer team kicks off the 2012 season — and the UF athletic year — today when the Gators take on the Miami Hurricanes at at 7 p.m.

“In some ways, it feels like a long, long time since we last played, but in some ways, it’s like ‘Wow, it’s really happening this quickly,’” said UF’s Becky Burleigh, the only coach in program history who is entering her 18th season with the Gators and 23rd overall.

“I think everybody is just really excited about playing outside competition. We’ve had the one scrimmage against UCF (a 2-0 UF win last Friday in Orlando), but otherwise we’ve just been playing against ourselves, and that can be kind of a false sense of security in terms of you play the same way against yourself as you play. Against Miami, we’ll face a much different style than ours.”

UF’s 30-member roster includes 19 freshmen and sophomores. But while youth is definitely being served, a core group of five seniors — Kathryn Williamson, Erika Tymrak, Holly King, McKenzie Barney and Jo Dragotta — will be the driving force behind this squad.

“We have a really good class,” said Tymrak, UF’s leading scorer from last year and one of two returning All-Americans along with Williamson.

“We’re all strong and we bring different attributes to the table. We’ve been playing together for the past four years, so we know each other inside and out.”

“We have a great group of seniors,” Burleigh said. “They’re all just high-standard people and good leaders who are great at bringing the young players along and mentoring them. I think we’re really happy with the leadership that they’ve brought.”

Offensively, UF returns three of its top four point-scorers, led by Tymrak (12 goals, 8 assists, 32 points) and sophomore forwards Annie Speese (8 goals, 9 assists, 25 points) and former Buchholz standout Havana Solaun (6 goals, 6 assists, 18 points), both of whom earned Freshman All-SEC honors last year.

The defense will be anchored by Williamson, the 2011 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and two-time All-America who led UF in minutes played last season with 2,176, an average of 87.04 minutes a match.

Sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Burke, who started 18 of UF’s 25 matches last season as a true freshman and posted a 1.08 GAA with eight shutouts, returns in net.

A talented, nine-member freshman class has been impressive, and UF should also benefit from the addition of junior transfer Adriana Leon, a two-year starter for Notre Dame who was the Fighting Irish’s second-leading scorer in 2011 and had the golden goal in their 1-0 win over Stanford in the 2010 NCAA title match. She will be unavailable for the first few weeks of the season, however, as she competes for Canada at the FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup in Japan.

UF would like nothing better than to start the season with a big win tonight on the Pressly pitch.

“It’s very important,” Williamson said. “I think it’s great that we’re playing at home. It’s always great to play in front of a great crowd, and we’re just really excited to get started.”

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