Notebook: Big things at stake for UF soccer team
Published: Monday, October 28, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 28, 2013 at 10:25 p.m.
The No. 7 Florida soccer team will be looking for a big Halloween treat when it finishes the regular season at Georgia on Thursday.
The Gators (14-3-1, 8-2) have won a season-high six straight games, all by shutout, to move into a first-place tie with Texas A&M entering the last match of the year, capping their third consecutive six-point (two wins) SEC weekend by defeating the Aggies on Sunday at Pressly Stadium, 2-0.
With a victory over the Bulldogs (12-5-1, 5-4-1), UF clinches at least a share of its 13th SEC title in 19 years of competition and the No. 1 seed for next week's SEC Tournament in Orange Beach, Ala.
Of course, Georgia, which is coming off of an SEC road weekend sweep of LSU and Arkansas, would like nothing better then to spook the Gators' chances.
“I don't think we talk about it in terms of the overall picture,” coach Becky Burleigh said. “We just talk about it as 'Let's take another step forward.' After Sunday, we're one step closer than we were before, but this is a big step that's left.
“We can't overlook anything because Georgia is a very, very good team, and they are much-improved. Not only are they much-improved, but I think they're playing with some confidence right now as well.”
In related news, freshman forward Savannah Jordan was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week.
Jordan, who leads the SEC with 18 goals, scored once in a 3-0 road win Friday at Tennessee and had both goals in Sunday's 2-0 win over Texas A&M.
SWIMMING AND DIVING
Not only do the Gator soccer and football teams get a shot at their Georgia counterparts this weekend, but so do the UF swim squads.
The Gators and Bulldogs meet Friday at noon in SEC dual-meet action in the O'Connell Center, and among those competing will be five Olympians for each school.
The defending SEC champion UF men (2-0, 1-0), winners of 17 straight dual meets, were ranked No. 2 nationally in the first CSCAA rankings that came out Oct. 25, while Georgia (4-0, 2-0) was No. 6.
The initial CSCAA women's rankings won't come out until next week, but the Bulldogs (4-0, 2-0), who are the defending NCAA champions as well as three-time defending SEC champs, figure to be in the top two along with Cal, which handed the UF women (1-1, 1-0) a close dual-meet loss (238-210) in their last action.
“On the women's side, we're swimming back-to-back against the top two teams in the country with Cal and now Georgia this week,” coach Gregg Troy said. “Georgia's like a Who's Who in swimming, which is good for us. It's a great opportunity for us to see what it's going to take to do well at the NCAA meet.
“The men's meet is almost the same, but it's a flip-flop. I think with our men, we don't have many weaknesses, and if someone wants to get in there with us, they're going to have to measure up in all the events.”
Following home SEC weekend sweeps of Auburn and Tennessee, the fifth-ranked Gators hit the road this weekend for matches at LSU and Texas A&M.
UF (20-2, 9-1) squares off against the Tigers (14-6, 4-4) Friday at 8 p.m. before taking on the Aggies (11-9, 3-6) Sunday at 2 p.m. in what will be Florida's first appearance on national television (ESPNU) this season.
“This will be the first time we've played LSU this season, and LSU has one of the premier freshmen (middle blocker Briana Holman) in the league as well as some of their other top point-scorers that are returning,” coach Mary Wise said. “They lead the league in blocking and are a very good blocking team, and so our offense will have to be on-point.
“Texas A&M, although we've played them before (3-0 home win Oct. 4), they are in the top three in kills per set, so they are a real strong offensive team and a great challenge for us.”
Midway through the SEC schedule, UF, which has won 20 of 22 conference titles under Wise (1991-present), sits in second place behind No. 7 Missouri (25-0, 9-0).
The countdown to next Friday's season-opener against Bethune-Cookman continues, and this past Saturday's first closed scrimmage against another opponent has only fueled the fire for the Gators.
“It was an opportunity to kind of get a feel to see where we're at right now overall as a team and just kind of give some kids a chance individually to see what they can do for us and what they'll be able to bring to the table,” associate head coach David Lowery said.
“I thought our kids were ready. They came out excited. We set the tone from the top, which is something we try to emphasize with our players as we go into each practice and game, and I thought we did a really, really good job of making sure they were ready to go.”
Head coach Amanda Butler's Gators will square off with BCC at 5:15 p.m. Nov. 8 as part of a double-header with the UF men, who open their 2013 regular season against UNF at 3 p.m.