The 2019 NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championship is underway on Friday, and for the 22nd time in the program’s 25-year history, the Florida Gators will be participating.
Florida begins the round of 64 against a familiar opponent. The Gators (11-8-1) host No. 17 University of South Florida (14-4) Friday at 7 p.m. Eastern. The two teams played earlier this season, and the Gators are hoping for another victory this time around.
How They Qualified
Thirty-one of the tournament’s teams qualified by winning their conference tournaments. This applies to the Bulls, who are the American Athletic Conference champions for the second time in three years.
After earning a first-round bye, USF smothered Central Florida in a 2-1 victory in the AAC tournament semis before downing No. 8 Memphis in the finals.
The remaining 33 teams in the bracket were chosen by the NCAA DI Women’s Soccer Committee, which is how Florida found its way in. The Gators made it to the semifinals of the SEC tournament last week where they lost to No. 6 Arkansas.
Bulls Looking for Revenge
This opening game of the tournament is a rematch of an Aug. 25 meeting. It was the second game of the regular season for both teams, and the Gators defeated the No. 18 Bulls in Tampa by a score of 2-0, although the Gators were on the back foot for much of the game. USF posted 20 shots in the match, compared to Florida’s four.
The Bulls come into this game well-equipped for a different result. The team boasts three All-AAC players, including AAC Midfielder of the Year Andrea Hauksdottir. The Iceland international is second on the team with four goals and seven assists in 18 games.
Evelyne Viens is the team’s top scorer. She has netted a remarkable 20 times in 17 games, which is enough for the third-most goals in DI soccer. Her scoring exploits earned her an AAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year award.
Gators Back Home
The team has not played a home game since Oct. 27, which was the second-to-last game of the regular season. The SEC tournament was played in Orange Beach, Alabama, and two Gators were commended for their play in the conference tournament. Midfielder Parker Roberts and center-back Julia Lester were named to the All-SEC Tournament team. Both players also earned All-SEC honors after the regular season.
The Gators come into the NCAA tournament in the midst of a slump. Dating back to regular season play, Florida has won just one of its last five games, although the team is 6-1-1 at home this season.