Notebook: UF soccer set for SEC stretch run
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 6:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 6:37 p.m.
With three SEC regular-season games remaining, the math is simple for the No. 7 Florida soccer team.
UF soccer: at Tennessee, 7 p.m., SUN Sports
UF volleyball: vs. Auburn, 7 p.m., Stephen C. O'Connell Center, AM-850
Win out, and UF, the defending champion, is assured of at least a share of the 2013 title and also would clinch the No. 1 seed for the upcoming conference tournament (Nov. 4-10).
Doing so, however, will not be so simple.
The Gators (12-3-1, 6-2) not only have to deal with a couple of tough opponents, beginning with Tennessee in Knoxville Friday at 7, but also face their only split weekend and will be heading back home afterward to prepare for Sunday's match with SEC-leading Texas A&M at 3 p.m.
“We know Tennessee is going to give us a really tough game; they always do,” junior midfielder Annie Speese said. “Texas A&M is on top in the SEC, so we've got to bring our best game this weekend.”
The Lady Vols (7-6-3, 2-4-2) have not lost at home to the Gators since 1999. UF is 0-5-1 in its last six trips, the tie coming in 2009.
The Aggies (12-3-1, 7-1), who host No. 23 Ole Miss (12-3-2, 5-2-1) Friday, have 21 points (teams receive three points for a win, one for a tie), while UF (18 points) shares the runner-up spot with No. 25 Kentucky (12-3-1, 6-2), a team Florida beat 3-0 last Friday.
Friday's game will air live on Sun Sports, while Sunday's battle with Texas A&M will be nationally televised on ESPNU.
“It's two tough teams,” coach Becky Burleigh said. “Tennessee is fighting to get into the SEC Tournament, and Texas A&M is trying to hold onto the number one spot. We'll be on the road for half of it and home for half of it, so it's a big challenge, but we're looking forward to it.”
UF closes out the regular season at Georgia Oct. 31.
Fifth-ranked Florida will be looking to start a new winning streak when Auburn visits the O'Connell Center Friday at 7 for the first of back-to-back home SEC matches.
The Tigers (12-7, 3-4) have won three straight, while UF (18-2, 7-1) had a 13-match winning streak ended Sunday at No. 11 Missouri (23-0, 7-0).
That win gave Missouri, one of just two undefeated teams remaining in the country, a slim half-game lead on Florida in the SEC standings approaching the midway point of the 18-match SEC slate.
“This week we've been working on establishing our middles and rights, and not kind of relying on our outsides as much,” senior setter Taylor Brauneis said. “We've been working on that a lot and on implementing that this weekend.”
Action continues Sunday with a match against Tennessee (8-13, 0-7) at 1:30 p.m.
UF has lost three straight to the Lady Vols, with the last win coming at home on Oct. 20, 2010. Included are a pair of five-set losses on Tennessee's last two visits to the O-Dome (2011, 2012).
“Playing Auburn and Tennessee back-to-back is helpful, because they're both very good, relentless defenders,” coach Mary Wise said. “They both have great liberos who can not only make the routine play, but can make the outstanding play.”