Gator soccer team meets up. Photo by: Goggle Images.

Silver Anniversary Season for Coach Becky Burleigh and Gators Soccer Begins This Weekend

Coach Becky Burleigh stunned the soccer community in 1995 when she arrived at the University of Florida to coach its brand new soccer program. Burleigh has accumulated 414 wins, 112 loses and only 36 ties in her 25-year spell as Florida soccer’s only head coach. Gators soccer will open up their 2019 season on the road versus two in-state rivals.

Season Opening Weekend

Burleigh’s Florida team is 18-4-2 in season openers and 5-3-1 when opening away from Gainesville.

Gators meet Owls

The 2019 Florida team will face Florida Atlantic University in their season-opening match for the second time in three years.

Florida had to fight hard for a 1-0 win in overtime against FAU on the 2017 opening match in Boca Raton. The Gators found a better result in 2018 when both teams met in opening weekend at Gainesville. The result was a 4-2 win where three current Gators, Cassidy Lindley, Madison Alexander and Sammie Betters, got their names in the scoring sheet.

The Gators have never lost to the Owls (6-0-1) and have outscored them 20-3 in the process. Nevertheless, Florida has struggled to win at Boca Raton twice before, winning both by minimal difference.

Kick-off is set for Friday, Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. You can catch coverage of the game at WRUF or stream video via CUSA TV.

USF hosts Florida

Florida soccer history with USF is almost identical to its history with FAU.

The Gators have never lost a game against Bulls (5-0-1) outscoring them 15-2. Florida failed to win in its only visit to Tampa by drawing 1-1 in 2013. However, Florida secured a 1-0 win in its last game against USF in 2017.

The game will begin on Sunday, Aug. 25 at 6 p.m. You can catch coverage of the game at WRUF or stream video via USF Athletics YouTube.

Freshmen and Transfers

After a 2018 season filled with injury woes and seniors who have now departed, it was Burleigh’s time to renovate the team. She delivered. Ten freshmen and two transfer players have been added to Florida’s roster.

Madeline Gravante and Vanessa Kara are Florida’s two transfer players. Both players are versatile with the ability to play in the midfield or as forwards. Gravante, a sophomore, was one of two to start every game for the 2018 Pittsburg Panthers. On the other hand, Kara, a senior, is a more experienced player who through her three seasons at Drexel scored 22 career goals (No.2 career goals for Drexel) and assisted 11 times. She was out for the 2018 season due to injury. 

The list of freshmen includes Laney Steed, Ava Kuyken, Nicole Vernis, Lauren Durbin, Kouri Peace, Cameron Hall, Syd Kennedy, Francesca Faraci, Alivia Gonzalez and Alexia Fotopoulos, daughter of Danielle Fotopoulos. Alexia Fotopoulos became the first daughter of a Gators soccer alumna to play for the program. Danielle Fotopoulos scored the game winning goal versus North Carolina in 1998 to win the NCAA women’s soccer championship and was Burleigh’s assistant coach in 2006.

Deanne Rose Availability

Rose featured in the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France during the summer representing her home country, Canada. The Alliston, Ontario native missed 12 out of Florida’s 22 games last season due to her commitment to the Canadian national team. I asked Burleigh regarding Rose’s availability this season and this is what she had to say.

More than ten games are expected from Rose this season.

New Leadership Approach

Coach Burleigh has chosen not to assign captains this season, but she will be assigning captains each game. She said that she’s been getting leadership contributions from a variety of players in the team during media day on Wednesday.

Players With Active Summers

Several Gators spent part of their summers on the pitch. A couple went abroad to represent their countries while others remained on the mainland to prepare for this season.

Deanne Rose – FIFA Women’s World Cup:

Rose represented Canada in the FIFA Women’s World Cup during the summer in France. Even though Rose was across the Atlantic, she wasn’t able to escape the Sunshine state’s heat on June 10. She was subbed in the 75th minute of the first group stage match against Cameroon in Montpellier. The temperature reached the eighties but Rose kept her cool during the last 18 minutes of the encounter helping the Canadians win their first game of the tournament.

Georgia Eaton-Collins – UEFA Women’s Under-19 Finals:

Sophomore Eaton-Collins featured for England’s u-19 team in the 2019 UEFA Women’s Under-19 Finals. England’s journey came to an end prematurely after losing its first two games against runner-ups, Germany, and Spain. The Lionesses secured three points in their third and final group stage match against Belgium.

Parker Roberts – Asheville City FC:

Roberts only played six out of 22 games in the 2018 season due to a Jones fracture on her foot. Once healed, Roberts joined Asheville City FC, an amateur soccer team based in Asheville, North Carolina. The Leawood, Kansas native spent her summer practicing and playing in the small town of 3,000 residents. Parker can’t wait to step on the field today.

Tess Sapone – Washington Spirit Reserves:

Sapone’s warm-up ahead of the NCAA 2019 season consisted of practicing and playing with WPSL’s Washington Spirit reserve team. Good experience and warmup for the senior ahead of her last season with the Gators.

Madison Alexander – Chicago Red Stars Reserves:

Alexander spent her summer playing for the Chicago Red Stars reserve team, another WPSL team. She played nine matches in a course of just over one month and scored two goals in the process. Expect her to be sharp and ready on this opening weekend.

Haillie Lower – Mississippi Blue FC:

The senior from Tampa spent her off-season at WSPL’s Mississippi Blues SC.

Alyssa Howell – Florida SOL FC:

Howell trained with the Florida Sol FC located in Clay County. UF alumnae, Lauren Silver and Havana Solaun who represented Jamaica in the FIFA Women’s World Cup also played in this club.

About Juan Aguerrevere

Figuring out a plan to make it big in the soccer scene in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world. For now, I'm having a blast writing for ESPN Gainesville and learning a lot from managers and students around the workplace. I'm covering the TV beat for Gators Soccer. What a team! Follow me on twitter: @J_AguerrevereUF

Check Also


Graham Mertz Returning to Florida for 2024 Season

Florida Gators quarterback Graham Mertz announced Thursday he’ll be returning to Florida for one more …