The Florida soccer team opens Southeastern Conference action tonight at 7 when the seventh-ranked Gators host No. 24 Ole Miss at James G. Pressly Stadium.
UF (5-1) enters the match having not played a game since downing Portland, 1-0, on Sept. 3 to close out its West Coast road trip with a split after suffering its lone loss to homestanding Washington by the same score two days earlier.
The Rebels (7-0-1), meanwhile, enter the weekend as one of four SEC teams unbeaten on the season.
“Well it’s been an interesting start because obviously the disruption of the hurricane has kind of changed our training schedule a good bit, and rightly so,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said. “The thing we’re focusing on now is just trying to get back to our routine. It’s tough because it gives us basically two practice sessions before we start SEC play.”
Hurricane Irma washed out Florida’s home matches with FSU (Sept. 8) and South Florida (Sept. 10) last weekend, creating an 11-day layoff for the Gators, who will travel to face Iowa State Sunday.
“Ole Miss has had a great beginning in the non-conference part of the season,” Burleigh noted. “I’m sure they’re feeling very confident, so it’s going to be a big match for us.”
Junior forward/midfielder Melanie Monteagudo feels the Gators are going to ready for the Rebels.
“Just like bring the energy,” Monteagudo said. “We just need to have high effort, good attitude and good body language. That’s all we’re really looking for.”
This is the third time in the last five meetings between UF and Ole Miss that both bring a top-25 ranking into the match.
Five of the last 16 meetings have gone to overtime, with the last coming in 2009 (3-2 2OT Rebels’ home win).
In addition, a single goal has decided seven of the last 13 meetings between the two programs.
Tonight will be the first SEC match for UF sophomore midfielder Parker Roberts, who played as a true freshman at Kansas in 2015 before redshirting last season while she competed with the U.S. Under-20 National Team at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
“I’m real excited to get it going,” Roberts said. “We’ve waited a long time for this, especially since we had that little delay. I think it’s going to be really exciting to play in the SEC after playing in the Big 12, so I’m excited to see the different styles of play and the really good teams that we’re going to face.”
Let the games begin.
“It’s definitely a quick turnaround and long travel, but I think that’s something we learned a lot with the Seattle trip,” Burleigh said. “Hopefully we can apply that.”
Tonight’s match will be televised live by the SEC Network.
Admission is free to all home regular-season matches, and the first 250 fans in attendance will receive Gator rally sticks.
It’s also $1 Thursday, where fans can pick up a 12-ounce drink and a large popcorn for just $1 each.