Gator soccer ready for SEC grind

Florida coach Becky Burleigh.

Brett Le Blanc/Correspondent
Published: Friday, September 20, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 7:01 p.m.

After a tough eight-match, non-conference schedule that included a number of first-time and rare opponents, Florida soccer coach Becky Burleigh feels her team is ready for the grind of SEC play that begins when the Gators take on Alabama at Pressly Stadium tonight at 7.

“The goal of this year's schedule was to play a real diverse group of teams to help us get ready for what we might see in the SEC,” Burleigh said. “I think we saw a lot of different things. We saw teams that play really high pressure, teams that kind of sat in and played low pressure, and teams with dynamic attackers. We're going to face all those scenarios in the SEC.”

The eighth-ranked Gators (6-1-1), who have not lost in their last five matches, are the defending SEC champions, having won their 12th regular-season title last year and adding their 10th SEC Tournament crown as well.

The Tide (2-5) have had a rough start, but are coming off of a 1-0 home win over Alabama-Birmingham last Sunday, while UF was tied, 1-1, by USF in Tampa to end a four-match winning streak.

Alabama beat UF, 1-0, last year in Tuscaloosa, the Tide's first win in 19 tries against the Gators.

“Everybody is starting over again, and I think for a team like Alabama that's a great thing because they probably haven't been pleased with their results so far,” Burleigh said. “I think they have had some adversity in goal scoring, but they're good, and we're going to be prepared for them. We will not take them lightly.”

The Tide's Merel Van Dongen, the 2012 SEC Freshman of the Year, has scored all four of Alabama's goals this season.

Freshman forward Savannah Jordan and junior midfielder Havana Solaun, meanwhile, have combined for 12 of UF's 18 goals this season, with Jordan's team-leading eight goals ranking No. 4 in the nation.

In addition, Jordan is just the second UF player in history (Abby Wambach, 1999) to have three multiple-goal performances in her first eight matches.

Admission to all regular-season home matches is free, and the first 500 fans tonight will receive a free Florida Gators rally towel.

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