The Florida women’s soccer team is back in the postseason.
After finishing just outside the top-25 to conclude the regular season, the Gators will host No. 17-ranked South Florida at 7 tonight at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The programs met back on Aug. 25, with the Gators claiming a 2-0 win.
“Anytime we play USF it’s always a really tight game, and the first game was no exception. I don’t expect this to be any exception,” Florida coach Becky Burleigh said. “They play hard, they’re well-coached and they’ve got some really good personality players.”
The match-up marks UF’s 22nd appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the 12th most appearances among Division I programs. But UF’s place was anything but guaranteed this season after the Gators missed the tournament last season for just the third time in Burleigh’s 24 seasons at the helm.
“I think there’s been times we’ve been playing really well, and we just continually remind ourselves of some of the good things we’ve done well, whether it’s goals, or build-up to goals or defensive plays,” Burleigh said. “Now it’s a matter of putting all that together.”
The Gators (11-8-1) enter the contest having suffered a 3-1 loss at the feet of Arkansas, the SEC’s regular-season champion. The Razorbacks scored the opening goal off of a corner kick to take the early lead, and SEC Freshman of the Year Anna Podojil would deliver two goals from outside the penalty area to give Arkansas a comfortable lead. UF senior Vanessa Kara did pull one back for the Gators on a penalty kick in the 63rd minute, but by then the deficit was too much to overcome. With the season on the line, UF’s hoping to be the decisive team come kick-off.
“I’ve been excited to play in the NCAA Tournament, it’s been a goal of mine since I was growing up,” Kara said. “We’re just going to focus on the first game and see where it takes us.”
South Florida (14-4) earned the American Athletic Conference’s NCAA automatic berth with a 2-0 win over then No. 8 Memphis in the tournament final.
The winner at The Diz tonight advances to the second round next weekend against the Washington (11-6-2)-Seattle (12-7-2) winner.
Also today on UF’s campus, No. 11 Florida volleyball team (20-3, 11-1 SEC) returns home for the first time in the month of November to face LSU (13-10, 7-6) at 7 p.m. This match will serve as SEC-leading Florida’s brain cancer awareness match, in honor of Florida’s Friends of Jaclyn adoptee, Sophia. Fans are encouraged to wear gray to support the cause.