The Gators soccer team has a winning conference record of 2-1-1. This is a far cry from the team that previously saw itself in a seven-game drought with no wins. But tonight, Florida soccer will try for something it has yet to do this season… beat two top-ranked opponents. The ninth-ranked Tennessee Volunteers head to Dizney Stadium with a 9-1-1 overall record on Thursday.
The Vols will be Florida’s fourth top ten opponent this season. Unfortunately for the Gators, two of the top-ten matchups ended in losses (USC, FSU) and one ended in a draw (UCLA). On the other hand, Tennessee has only faced one top-15 opponent (South Carolina), which is their sole loss this season.
Tennessee and Florida did not face any of the same teams in nonconference play. But, when it comes to the SEC, these teams measure up quite nicely. Last Sunday, the Gators drew Mississippi State 0-0. The Volunteers topped the Bulldogs 1-0 on September 23rd.
Both teams topped Kentucky. But while the Vols won 3-1, the Gators shut the ‘Cats out 6-0. All in all, Florida is excited to get another chance against a top-ten team.
Another advantage for the Gators is that the Vols will be in Gainesville without their best player. Bunny Shaw has scored seven goals this season, including a hat trick against Kentucky. Shaw will join former Gator Lauren Silver on the Jamaican National Team for Friday’s CONCAF Championship. Current Gator Deanne Rose will be at the same match as Silver and Shaw, playing for Team Canada.
However, Shaw and Rose will not be the only players not playing this game. All-SEC Gators Rachelle Smith (ACL) and Parker Roberts (foot) are still out due to injuries. Lastly, freshman defender Georgia Eaton-Collins will be on duty with England’s U19 team.
Senior midfielder Briana Solis is set to take the place of Eaton-Collins at centerback. Head Coach Becky Burleigh said, “Solis is just a natural soccer player with a great brain for the game.” Of the change, Solis herself said she is, “Just proud that [her] coaches and teammates trust [her] to move to the backfield.”
Kickoff is set for 6:30 on Thursday. After the game, the Gators do not have much time until they hit the road Sunday for a match against No. 12 South Carolina.