Notebook: UF soccer opens with pair of wins
Published: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 26, 2013 at 5:18 p.m.
The No. 9 Florida soccer team got the 2013-14 UF athletic year off to a roaring start with a pair of 3-1 home wins over Florida Gulf Coast and Oregon State this past weekend.
The Gators will try and continue their hot start when they take on No. 3 Florida State at 7 p.m. Friday to close out a three-game homestand to open the season.
The Seminoles, who are coming off a 2012 College Cup berth, are also off to a strong start, having knocked off Oregon State, 1-0, and Auburn, 4-1, at home on opening weekend.
“The games this weekend were a really good test for us, because it was the first time we've played anyone besides ourselves,” coach Becky Burleigh said. “That's always a big challenge for us because we play a certain way and the teams we play don't often play that way.”
That will not be the case Friday, as the 'Noles and Gators both prefer to dominate possession and make the other team chase.
“The interesting thing about this game is these are two teams that play very similarly,” Burleigh said. “It's sort of like a cat-and-mouse game to see who can impose on the other team because both teams want to play the same way.”
While Burleigh was generally pleased with the opening weekend's results, both goals the Gators surrendered were from defensive lapses.
“We have to stop gifting offensive chances,” she said. “If you want to be a championship team, your defense has to be really set. Right now, we still have some quirks that we've got to work out.”
In related news, freshman forward Savannah Jordan, who scored five goals in UF's first two wins, was named Monday the SEC Freshman of the Week.
UF will travel to Miami to take on FIU at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Gators' first road test of 2013.
Former UF standout Erika Tymrak was named the National Women's Soccer League Rookie of the Year last week. Tymrak started 16 matches and scored six goals and made four assists for FC Kansas City.
The No. 9 Gators open the season this weekend by hosting the annual Campus Credit Union Invitational in the O'Connell Center.
Joining UF for the two-day tournament are New Orleans, LIU-Brooklyn and Duke.
“Like the players, the staff is anxious to get started so that we can get an idea of where we are,” coach Mary Wise said.
The Gators, who are coming off a 27-5 season that included their 20th SEC regular-season title in 22 seasons under Wise, will play their first match Friday at noon against New Orleans, then return to the court at 7:30 p.m. to take on LIU-Brooklyn. UF finishes up by taking on Duke Saturday at 4 p.m. in the tournament finale.
With 11 letterwinners and five starters returning, led by UF's top two point scorers last season in redshirt senior middle blocker Chloe Mann, the 2012 SEC Player of the Year and a first-team AVCA All-American, and sophomore outside hitter Ziva Recek, the 2012 AVCA National Freshman of the Year, the Gators are gunning for their first NCAA final four appearance since 2003.
“We like where we are offensively, and we think we're in position to make some strides defensively,” Wise said. “When it came down to us against some of the better teams (last year), we were unable to keep them from scoring. You do that with your serving, your blocking and your transition defense, and that's been a major emphasis since January.”
The Florida men's and women's cross country teams kick off their 2013 campaigns when they compete at the Western Carolina Invitational in Culhowee, N.C., on Friday.
“Traditionally over the years, this has been an invitational that all of our athletes look forward to and get a few days of training up in the mountains,” said second-year UF coach Paul Spangler.
The Florida women are coming off their third league title in the last four years, while the men are looking to improve on a fifth-place conference finish in 2012. Both UF squads were picked to finish second in the SEC in a preseason coaches poll.
Leading the way for the UF women will be redshirt senior Agata Strausa and redshirt junior Cory McGee, while senior Mark Parrish and junior Jimmy Clark lead the way for the men.
In addition to their annual home meet next month (Mountain Dew Invitational, Sept. 14), the Gators will host the 2013 SEC Championships at the Mark Bostick Golf Course on Nov. 1.
It's the first time UF has hosted the SECs since 2002.
“We don't have that opportunity very often,” Spangler said. “Our athletes and staff are really excited.”