Gator soccer team all business
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 11:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 11:11 p.m.
Tonight's NCAA Tournament second-round match against UCF at Pressly Stadium could present a potential bump in eighth-ranked Florida's postseason road.
What: NCAA Tournament, second round
Who: Florida vs. UCF
When: 7 p.m.
Gainesville-area radio: AM-850
In each of the last three seasons, UF soccer, which is making its 16th NCAA Tournament appearance in 18 years of play, has had its season end with a second-round loss, most recently a 3-2 home defeat at the hands of the Knights last year.
The 2012 Gators, however, have found success by using a business-like approach, so don't look for this squad to be too concerned with trends or revenge.
“For our team, there's probably less of that whole redemption theme than you would expect because this team really doesn't function on emotion,” head coach Becky Burleigh said. “We function on composure and what we do best. That's probably different than what we've been in the past, but I think it's been effective so far and that's what we're going to continue to do.”
The fact that UF (18-4-1) is led by an experienced and talented five-member senior class of Erika Tymrak, McKenzie Barney, Jo Dragotta, Holly King and Kathryn Williamson has a lot to do with that mature approach. The fact that all five could be on the pitch together for the first time in more than two months this weekend is just an added plus.
Four of them — all but King — have been sidelined with injuries at some point. Tymrak (ankle) missed three matches, Barney (knee) missed one and Dragotta (concussion) missed last Friday's first-round, 2-0 win over Florida Gulf Coast.
The most serious injury was Williamson's torn meniscus (right knee) suffered against FIU back on Sept. 2, but the 2011 SEC Defensive Player of the Year made a successful return to the pitch against FGCU.
“It was a little emotional for us,”Burleigh said. “It had been a long time since she had played, but we thought she thought she might have an opportunity to play with the way she was training. For her to actually get in the game meant a lot for her, the senior class and her teammates.”
Tymrak, the 2012 SEC Offensive Player of the Year who leads the team in scoring with 29 points (9 goals, 11 assists), has been on fire of late, scoring four goals and adding four assists in the last four matches.
But she is hardly UF's only threat. The Gators have seven players with five or more goals.
“I think that's what makes us a dangerous team,” Burleigh said. “We have a lot of people who can score.”
The Gators, the No. 2 seed in the region, have also been solid defensively down the stretch, allowing just one goal in their current six-match winning streak.
That defensive effort has been led by King, the 2012 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and Dragotta, a fellow first-team All-SEC selection, at the holding midfield positions; a back line anchored by freshman center back Christen Westphal, a second-team All-SEC selection; and sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Burke, who has posted eight shutouts, including three in a row.
No. 18 UCF (17-4-2), which won its first Conference USA title this season and is making its 17th NCAA appearance, is led by seniors Nicolette Radovcic (12 goals, 3 assists, 27 points) and Tishia Jewell (7 goals, 10 assists, 24 points).
In addition, sophomore Madison Barney, McKenzie's younger sister, plays for UCF.
The Knights and Gators will square off at 7 p.m. following the match between No. 3 seed Wake Forest (14-5-3) and Notre Dame (14-5-2) that starts at 4:30 p.m.
The Fighting Irish advanced with a 3-1 first-round win over Milwaukee, while the 10th-ranked Demon Deacons ousted Georgia Southern, 4-0.
The two winners will meet in third-round action at Pressly Stadium on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. with an NCAA quarterfinal berth on the line.
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