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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Say what you will about Florida State, but Ashley Harris isn't listening.

When the UF soccer team hosts the Seminoles this weekend, Harris, a senior from Royal Palm Beach, will have no problem looking past the garnet and gold.

"Rival teams? I don?t have any," Harris said. "All my teams are rivals."

Harris, along with the rest of the No. 14 Gators (1-1), will host the No. 9 Seminoles (1-1) Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at James G. Pressly Stadium.

FSU will be the Gators' second top-10 opponent, and they are only two weekends into the season. The Seminoles, along with last Sunday's opponent, Notre Dame, made up one half of last year's final four.

For Harris, a chance to play such a high-caliber team is what she needs to get motivated.

"I like having competition," she said. "That's what I like about the game. It?s exciting, it's competing, it's what we're here for. If we didn't want to compete, then why would we play sports?"

Harris is only one of the eight seniors on the team who have experienced victory against their in-state foe. The Seminoles have defeated the Gators in the past two contests, and in three of the last five.

Last year, FSU scored a late first-half goal that proved too much for UF, who fell to the then-ranked No. 2 Seminoles 1-0.

The game, held in Tallahassee, was played in front of a record crowd of 4,582 at Seminole Soccer Complex.

This year, the Gators hope to set an attendance record of their own, as they try to eclipse the 4,745 fans who attended the 1999 matchup between the two teams.

"I expect a typical UF-FSU crowd," Harris said. "Packed stadium - so many people that they can't all fit in the stands. … It's a lot of fun getting fans out there; it pumps us up. Especially if we?re down a goal, we need our fans there for us."

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Even UF coach Becky Burleigh is getting into the spirit.

"I'm hoping they're really rowdy and crazy," she said. "That's what we like."

But before the Gators kick off Sunday's highly anticipated game, they will have to tackle another nearby opponent.

Tonight at 7, UF will take on South Florida. The Bulls have only played one game so far, a double-overtime tie against Mississippi. This will be USF?s first regular-season trip to Gainesville, and only the second meeting between the programs.

However, there is some familiarity as the two squads met last spring for an exhibition game in Tampa, where the Gators pulled out a 2-0 victory.

Burleigh said her team has no intention of looking past the Bulls.

"We played them in the spring, and it was a battle," she said. "They're a real defense-oriented team, and this is going to be a real test for us. They want to defend hard, and we need to take care of our opportunities, especially in this game because we may not get too many."

Following last weekend?s loss to No. 2 Notre Dame, the Gators remain confident as they move deeper into the season.

"I don't think it was a make-or-break type of thing," junior forward Ameera Abdullah said. "We?re going to just keep doing what we?re doing and continue to move forward."

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