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Friday, February 03, 2023

Inside the Gator Dining Complex UF coach Becky Burleigh takes a bite out of her salad and a sip from her bottle of Gatorade.

It has been nine months since the No.13 UF soccer team?s controversial 3-2 loss to UCLA in the Sweet 16, and it seems Burleigh still hasn?t gotten over the loss.

"We were all disappointed with our Sweet 16 loss to UCLA," Burleigh said. "So I think that everyone is poised to go further than that this season."

Most coaches in the country would be satisfied with a Sweet 16 finish. But that?s not enough for the Gators, not this year.

Not after Burleigh openly questioned the officiating following UF's loss to the Bruins. And definitely not with eight returning seniors - the same number the Gators boasted on their 1998 National Championship team.

"I think if we finish first in the (Southeastern Conference), that puts us into a very good position on the national scene," Burleigh said. "Our team has goals in the SEC, and we definitely have goals on the national scene."

With so many veterans suiting up for the Gators, they may have already won the first battle along the path to a successful season.

Forward Stacy Bishop is one of the eight seniors looking to go out on top. Bishop, who led UF in goals (12) and assists (6), feels that the key to success does not necessarily lie in her own play but in fostering the growth of the younger players.

"We just need to work on getting everyone on the same page," the 2006 first-team All-SEC forward said. "Everybody wants the same thing, and that?s to win championships."

The area of concern for Bishop and the Gators will be at goalkeeper where redshirt freshman Katie Fraine and true freshman Meghan Berlingo are battling to replace the departed Brittni Goodwin.

Fraine, who appeared in four games with one start, appears to be the favorite to win the job due to her experience. But the Titusville native feels the outcome is far from a foregone conclusion.

"I'm working my hardest this preseason to get the starting spot, but we just got Meghan in, and she's doing really well," Fraine said. "She?s giving me good competition, and hopefully she's making me a better goalkeeper as much as I'm making her a better goalkeeper."

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Fraine admits that her experience gives her at least one advantage over Berlingo. She said that she has built chemistry with the team and no longer expects to be nervous when she steps on the field.

That experience has Fraine brimming with confidence. When asked if she thought UF was the best team in the SEC, she grinned.

"Well I definitely think we're at the top, and as long as we play the way we can play, we shouldn't have any problems."

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