On a chilly Sunday night in Athens, Georgia, the Gators struggled to put balls in the net early. Florida was held to just four shots in the first half. The team’s only solace might have been that Georgia only got off five. Coach Becky Burleigh said she was happy with how her team pressured the Bulldogs’ attack.
“Going back and watching the game, our press was pretty effective,” Burleigh said.
The Gators eventually took down Georgia, 3-0, for the 29th win in the rivalry’s 32 games. Three Gators scored their first goals of the year, and Gabby Seiler tied Deanne Rose for the team lead in points (13) with her assist to Cassie Owens.
The win continues a trend for Burleigh’s squad though. It was the fourth straight game in which Florida failed to score in the first half.
Burleigh said she wasn’t concerned about the lack of scoring early.
The trouble, she said, came after winning the ball from those contested possessions.
The team worked on that specific problem at Tuesday’s practice, one Burleigh called a “Tom Petty tribute.” The speakers on the sidelines belted out “Free Fallin’,” while the team worked on holding possession of the ball after taking it away.
“I think that’s an easy fix, as far as just an awareness thing for us,” Burleigh said.
She’ll get to see if the fix was made on Thursday night at 6 as her squad takes on Missouri at James G. Pressly Stadium.
The Tigers sit 11th in the SEC standings and limp into Gainesville with a 1-5-1 record on the road this year. And while Missouri is tied for the second-most goals scored in conference games (8), it has also allowed the most, both within the conference (14) and overall (25).
Naturally, those circumstances present Florida a great opportunity to get into the scoring column in the first half for the first time since Sept. 14.
One of the causes for that drought might be a lack of consistency in time on the practice field. Though Hurricane Irma has long since passed, the loss of that training time has had a ripple effect up through last week, when the Gators finally had a full week of practice leading up to the Georgia game.
“I don’t know if it was so much a week to prepare for Georgia,” Burleigh said. “It was just to have a week of training for ourselves. Obviously, we don’t have that this week… In a way, it’s kind of nice to get into the rhythm of playing a couple more games, too, so they both have their tradeoffs.”
Whether that extra time on the training grounds has any lasting effect will be evident after Thursday night’s matchup with the Tigers and again on Sunday against Vanderbilt.
Though the Tigers have had their share of offensive and defensive woes this season, Missouri has played Florida close in recent matchups. The regular-season finale last year ended in a narrow 1-0 win for UF. The Gators’ very next game, the quarterfinal match in the SEC tournament, saw the Tigers and Gators battle to a 3-3 draw through regulation and two overtimes before Florida finally bested Missouri 8-7 in a penalty-kick shootout.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had an easy game against Missouri,” Burleigh said. “I think both those games are going to be challenging in different ways. But I’m excited about having a home game here on Thursday.”
You can follow Morgan McMullen on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin, and contact him at [email protected].