To say the Gator soccer team capped off the regular season on a high note would be an understatement. The team finished the season eighth in the nation and #2 in the SEC. They rolled through their last three games with a 3-1 win over Tennessee on Senior Day, a 3-0 road win over LSU, and a 6-1 blowout win over Vanderbilt.
The team also had four players receive first team All-SEC honors, and one more earn second team All-SEC. Gator coach Becky Burleigh says individual honors are a result of good team play.
“I’m really proud of the people who got the awards,” says Burleigh. “I think it takes an entire team to support that. We don’t get that many people on that [All-SEC] team if we don’t have a good team.”
However, no matter how good of a finish the team had to their season, it’s the post season that truly matters. Florida, who is 9-2 against SEC opponents this year, will face the Tennessee Volunteers (10-9-1, 4-6-1) today in its first game of the SEC Tournament.
Despite rallying in the second half to defeat the Vols in their match up two weeks ago, the Gators found themselves down 1-0 at halftime, and in a conference in which six teams rank among the top 30 in the nation, the SEC Tournament must be approached one game at a time. Burleigh believes this will be one of her team’s biggest challenges.
“Ultimately it’s the challenge of taking each game individually and not looking forward,” Burleigh says. “[It’s] not trying to predict anything or guess what might happen, just stay[ing] in the present.”
Burleigh’s thoughts on the matter make sense. Florida fell to Texas A&M 2-1 in last year’s SEC Tournament championship. The Aggies (15-2-2, 9-1-1) are the top seed in this year’s tournament. It’s tough not to look ahead to a rematch in this year’s championship, especially when Florida has a target on their own back.
“People really like to beat Florida regardless if you’re the number one or the number two seed,” says Burleigh.” I think for a lot of people that’s a very big game regardless of our seeding.”
Tennessee will certainly bring their all to the game today and Burleigh realizes that they’ll be playing with a chip on their shoulder being the underdog.
“There’s different challenges of being the underdog versus being the person on top,” she says, “but ultimately it comes from you competing in the game and bringing the best that you can.”
The game is set to begin at 1:00 this afternoon at Orange Beach, Alabama.
To hear audio of Becky Burleigh, click below.