Notebook: UF soccer set for SEC tourney

Published: Monday, November 4, 2013 at 11:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 4, 2013 at 11:53 p.m.

Fresh off securing a share of the program's 13th SEC regular-season title, the No. 6 Florida soccer team is headed to Orange Beach, Ala., looking to add an 11th SEC Tournament trophy to UF's collection.

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Florida sophomore defender Christen Westphal was named to the All-SEC first team Monday.

Brett Le Blanc/Correspondent/FILE

The Gators (15-3-1, 9-2), who scored a season-high five goals in defeating rival Georgia, 5-1, on the road last Thursday to grab part of the 2013 SEC championship along with Texas A&M, are the No. 1 seed for this year's conference tourney thanks to their 2-0 win over the Aggies Oct. 27.

Florida, the defending tournament champion, is riding a season-high seven-game winning streak and will take on the winner of Monday night's first-round contest between No. 8 seed Missouri and No. 9 seed Arkansas in quarterfinal action Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Coach Becky Burleigh pointed to a game at Mississippi State back on Oct. 11, one which UF won 1-0 in double overtime, as key to Florida's late-season run.

“In the SEC schedule, Mississippi State was a big turning point for us, and not just because of the game,” Burleigh said. “We had a big meeting that morning with our team, and then that game had so many subplots to it and a lot of drama. There was a lot of intensity in that game, and we had to overcome some things. I think after that, they started to believe a little more about what we could do.”

In related news, freshman forward Savannah Jordan, sophomore midfielder and Buchholz graduate Havana Solaun and sophomore defender Christen Westphal were named to the All-SEC first team Monday.

In addition, Jordan, who leads the SEC with 20 goals, was named the SEC Freshman of the Year and the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, becoming the first freshman in conference history to win the latter award. She was joined on the SEC All-Freshman team by UF midfielder Pam Begic.

Westphal was also chosen as the SEC Defensive Player of the Week.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Tip-off for the 2013-14 season is just days away as coach Amanda Butler's squad continues to prepare for Friday's season-opener against Bethune-Cookman at 5:15 p.m. in the O'Connell Center.

The game will be part of a UF double-header for Homecoming weekend and will follow the men's season opener against UNF that starts at 3 p.m.

Butler, who is entering her seventh season at UF, is excited to get things started.

“It's special; it's different than any other week of preparation we've had, and I've been really proud of our team and the way they have set the tone for this week,” Butler said. “(Sunday's) practice was fantastic and I think was a real springboard to what we need to accomplish before we actually have to put our uniforms on to play, which is very, very exciting to us.”

The Gators played their second and last closed scrimmage Saturday, and Butler credited redshirt junior Kayla Lewis, UF's leading returning rebounder, as a key performer.

“She played with a lot of intensity, grabbed a lot of boards and was really physical,” Butler said. “She gives us a dimension that really no one else on our team can.”

SWIMMING & DIVING: The UF men and women continue their SEC dual-meet schedule by taking on Alabama Thursday in the O'Connell Center at 7 p.m.

Friday in the O-Dome, the second-ranked Gator men (3-0, 2-0), the defending SEC champions, picked up a 179-119 win over No. 6 Georgia (4-1, 2-1), and the No. 5 UF women (1-2, 1-1) dropped a 162-136 decision to the No. 2 Lady Bulldogs (5-0, 3-0), the defending NCAA and SEC champs.

It was the 18th straight dual-meet win for the Gator men, while the UF women, whose two losses have come to the nation's No. 1 (Cal) and No. 2 teams, won nine of 16 events in a strong showing.

“It was a great competition,” coach Gregg Troy said.

“Both meets were very well-fought and were almost mirror images of one another. Our men won the meet very handily, but there were a lot of close races and it was close the whole way through. The women's meet was the reverse, but we were pretty pleased with what we saw.

“We had three women who were tremendous individually in Natalie Hinds, Elizabeth Beisel and Sinead Russell. They were all very, very good.”

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