Gators open NCAAs vs. Jacksonville


Published: Friday, November 15, 2013 at 10:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 15, 2013 at 10:51 p.m.

The sixth-ranked Florida Gators host Jacksonville University Saturday at James G. Pressly Stadium in a first-round NCAA match starting at 2 p.m.

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Florida junior Annie Speese said the team will rally together after losing Havana Solaun for the season.

FILE

Facts

NCAA FIRST ROUND

Who: Jacksonville (12-7-1) vs. No. 2 region seed Florida (17-4-1)
When: Saturday, 2 p.m.
Where: Pressly Stadium, gates open at 1
Tickets: $7 for adults, $3 for youths 12 and under and senior citizens. First 200 UF students with a Gator1 card admitted free.
Parking: In the Pressly Stadium lot. Other parking locations near Pressly Stadium with lifted restrictions include the UF Law School and Fraternity Row.
TV/Radio: None
Online: Streaming on Gatorzone.com

UF (17-4-1), a No. 2 regional seed for the fourth straight year, is making its 17th NCAA Tournament appearance in 19 seasons under coach Becky Burleigh, while the Dolphins (12-7-1) are making their third appearance, but first since 2006, under coach Brian Copham, who took over at JU in 2008.

“We have a lot of respect for Brian and his program,” Burleigh said. “He's done a great job with developing technical players, and I think they play similarly to us.”

The Gators, the 2013 SEC regular-season co-champions, are coming off Sunday's tough 2-1 loss to Texas A&M, the team Florida shared the title with, in the SEC Tournament final.

UF lost more than a game, though, as the Gators will play the rest of the postseason without first-team All-SEC midfielder and former Buchholz standout Havana Solaun, their top play-maker and assists leader (nine), who suffered a torn right ACL in the loss.

“Obviously we had some adversity Sunday, and now we're really excited to see how our team is going to react to that,” junior midfielder Annie Speese said. “We just have to use that as fuel for the fire.”

JU, which finished second to Florida Gulf Coast in the regular-season Atlantic Sun Conference race, is coming off a 5-3 penalty-kick win over the Eagles on Sunday in the championship final of the A-Sun Tournament after the two teams battled to a scoreless tie through two overtimes.

“I think it's really important that our team just focuses on our opponent coming up,” UF junior defender Lauren Silver said. “We're going to be confident going into any game that we play because we really trust our team, our system and what we're doing.

“We've kind of evolved as an entire team. Our trust has grown a lot more than it was in the beginning, and trusting each other on the field is really important. That's what separates us from a lot of different teams. Ultimately when we trust each other, we play our best.”

The Gators, who have faced Florida Gulf Coast in opening-round action each of the past two years, are happy to be home and playing an unfamiliar opponent.

This is the first meeting between UF and JU in NCAA postseason play and just the fourth meeting overall, with the Gators winning all three of the previous games.

“I've never played Jacksonville, so it's going to be something new and something different,” Speese said. “Whoever is put in front of us, we're just going to focus on that.

“We always get good crowds and it's fun to play on our field. It's a small field and other people probably aren't really used to that.”

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