Notebook: UF soccer begins SEC tourney play
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012 at 5:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 29, 2012 at 5:07 p.m.
The Florida soccer team captured the Gators' first Southeastern Conference title of the 2012-13 year with a 3-0 win over defending champion South Carolina last Thursday in Columbia.
“That's a big deal,” coach Becky Burleigh said. “That was one of our goals, to win the SEC, and to actually have that come to fruition was great for that whole team.
“I think it was truly a team effort with this year's team because of the fact that we've had to overcome some adversity in terms of injuries to key players, especially in the stretch of SEC games, so I was really proud of our team.”
The crown was the 12th in history and sixth in the last seven years for Florida, which heads to Orange Beach, Ala., for this year's SEC Tournament.
The Gators (14-4-1, 11-2), winners of 11 of their last 12 matches, are the No. 1 seed and will play the winner of Monday's LSU-Ole Miss game Wednesday at 6 p.m.
“No one is going to play a perfect game in our sport for sure, but we're striving for excellence,” Burleigh said.
Burleigh and midfielder/forward Erika Tymrak and midfielder Holly King were honored by the SEC on Monday.
Burleigh was named Coach of the Year, while Tymrak was named Offensive Player of the Year and King was tabbed Defensive Player of the Year. Midfield Jo Dragotta made first-team All-SEC and Christen Westphal was named to the second team.
UF's two-time defending NCAA champions have put together a strong fall.
“Overall, I think we've performed well,” coach Roland Thornqvist said. “We have good records against ranked players, which is one of the things I like to look at, and our freshmen have adapted really well.”
Senior All-America Lauren Embree, who won the first national singles title of her career at the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships on Oct. 7, leads a strong group of returnees, while true freshman Danielle Collins from St. Petersburg has caught Thornqvist's eye.
“Danielle, in my mind, has already shown that she's going to be one of the better players in the country,” he said. “She's powerful, she's very competitive and we're going to count on her playing high in the lineup for sure throughout her freshman year.”
SWIMMING AND DIVING
The UF men and women opened their SEC dual-meet seasons with road trips to Georgia and South Carolina last week.
The top-ranked Florida men (2-0) were impressive, defeating No. 9 Georgia 192-104 Thursday and taking down 12th-ranked South Carolina 166-128 Friday, while the UF women (1-1) fell to the Bulldogs 188-110, but bounced back to down the Gamecocks 176-119.
“It was a good week,” coach Gregg Troy said. “I'm really proud of the way the team raced.
“For the women, we have a few injuries right now, so we had to sort of juggle our lineup a little bit. On the men's side, we have a pretty talented group and we're very deep.”
UF hosts Texas A&M in dual-meet action in the O'Connell Center Natatorium at 4 p.m. Friday.
No. 11 UF's unbeaten SEC record will be put to the test when rivals Georgia and Tennessee visit the O'Connell Center for a pair of televised matches against the league-leading Gators this weekend.
The Bulldogs (13-9, 7-5) and Gators (18-3, 12-0) square off Friday at 7 p.m. in a match televised by SUN Sports, with UF taking on the Vols (15-6, 8-4) Sunday at 2 p.m. in a CSS televised affair.
“Looking at Georgia, they are the most improved team in the league,” coach Mary Wise said. “They just went toe-to-toe with Kentucky and almost beat them (five-set loss).
“Tennessee — I don't know if there is a team that has more talent, especially on their pins (outside hitters). Tennessee has always played well against Florida, so it should be a great match.”
UF continued to prepare for the upcoming season opener against Fairfield on Nov. 9 with a tough week of practice capped by a closed scrimmage against Clemson on Sunday.
“We had a great full week of practice,” said assistant coach David Lowery. “We've made great progress, and our kids continue to work hard.”
This will be the last week of preseason practice, with the Gators capping it with a scrimmage against Stetson on Sunday.
“We can put a lot on their plates this week,” Lowery said. “I thought they did a really good job of attacking all the new stuff we put in.”
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