A day after Florida dropped its Sweet 16 match against Notre Dame, coach Becky Burleigh still could not find a silver lining.
“Honestly, it’s just disappointing,” she said. “It was great for us to break through that barrier of making the Sweet 16, but that wasn’t the goal of this team. The goal of this team was to win a national championship.”
The Gators had their hopes dashed on Sunday when they fell 2-0 to the Fighting Irish.
The loss was the last game at UF for five seniors: forward McKenzie Barney, midfielders Jo Dragotta, Holly King and Erika Tymrak, and center back Kat Williamson. Barney and Williamson were both redshirt seniors.
“They were willing to do whatever it took for us to be good,” Burleigh said.
The senior class provided a solid core. Tymrak and Williamson are both former All-Americans.
The five seniors carried the Gators throughout the season. Barney, Dragotta, King and Tymrak combined for 27 goals, half of Florida’s total scores.
For their stellar play, Dragotta, King and Tymrak were named to the All-Southeastern Conference first team. King and Tymrak were recognized as the league’s defensive and offensive players of the year, respectively.
“It’s been hard for some of the younger players to be leaders, because of the great leadership we had with the older players,” Burleigh said.
Despite the celebrated class of departing seniors, Burleigh’s squad is stocked with high-caliber players. Sophomores Havana Solaun and Annie Speese have already scored a combined 27 goals in their first two years at Florida. Junior Adriana Leon scored five goals while splitting time at forward with Barney. On the back line, freshman Christen Westphal was named to All-SEC second team and SEC All-Freshman team, and sophomores Annie Bobbitt and Karina Gutsche filled in admirably while Williamson was injured.
“This team has a ton of talent,” King said. “Us five leaving is not going to change anything.”
Although the Gators are poised to make another run next year, Burleigh was emotional when discussing the end of the season. Despite Florida’s premature exit in the NCAA Tournament, she had no problem praising this team as one of the best she has coached.
Said Burleigh: “Normally, we sort of reserve the word ‘great’ for teams that win a national championship, but this was a really great team.”