UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh is continuing to reload.
After signing 15 players a season ago, Burleigh announced a 12-person recruiting class for next season.
"We do have a big class coming in. It’s a really exciting class," said Burleigh, who is heading into her 22nd season as Florida soccer’s head coach. "There’s just a variety of different holes that we feel like we filled in our roster."
The main vacancy Burleigh will look to fill is at center back, where the Gators lost seniors Christen Westphal and Claire Falknor to graduation.
The duo combined to start 164 games over their four-year careers. Both earned All-America honors last season and are continuing their soccer careers professionally, Westphal with the Boston Breakers of the National Women’s Soccer League after being drafted third overall back in January and Falknor as a member of FC Bayern Munich in Germany.
"We don’t expect anyone on our current team or anyone coming in to be exactly like them because that would be unrealistic," Burleigh said. "But I do think it also presents us an opportunity to be a little bit different."
The Gators signed a pair of freshmen defenders in Lauren Kelly and Jocelyn Nelson who, along with eight returning backline players, will vie for starting time next season. Florida also added a pair of forwards, seven midfielders and a goalkeeper to round out its class.
Kelly, a Virginia native, won four consecutive Elite Clubs National League Mid-Atlantic championships with her club team, FC Virginia.
Nelson, a left-footed defender and one of two early enrollees in the class, has spent five years with the Oklahoma Olympic Development Team and spent time playing with a development team in Holland coached by UF assistant Alan Kirkup.
"It’s been fun watching (Nelson) as we’ve gone through this training because she’s a little bit of a perfectionist and we’re trying to get her to realize that it’s OK to make mistakes and that it’s OK to grow through those mistakes," Burleigh said. "She’s really come a long way even from the beginning of when she got here in January."
The Gators finished last season with a 19-4-1 record and swept the Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament titles.