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Thursday, February 02, 2023

The UF soccer team has its own version of The Swamp.

Located behind the Florida Softball Stadium, the UF soccer practice field has one thing in common with the home of the Gators football squad, and it?s not the 90,000 screaming fans.

Devoid of shade, the facility is one of the hottest spots on campus, with heat indexes reaching as high as 115 degrees in summer, according to defender Lauren Hyde.

Conditioning, in addition to the heat, forces members of the 13th-ranked Gators to enter the facility prepared for one of the toughest workouts in all of UF athletics.

"Oh my goodness," sophomore forward Ashlee Elliot said. "All you do is run. Soccer, I would have to say, is the most running aside from cross country. People don?t think we run as much as other teams, but we do."

She said an average practice consists of more than three miles of total conditioning.

Aside from preparing for games, players are driven by a punishment promised to players who make mistakes during the course of practice.

The prize awarded to these unlucky Gators is a drill known as 120s, which Elliot describes as a drill in which a player must run from one end of the field to the other while being clocked by a coach. If the player doesn?t make it there and back in the allotted time, they have to rerun the drill and run the amount originally assigned.

"You just run until they say stop," she said.

In the preseason, practices can be held up to three times a day, which can be a shock for some of the incoming players. Elliot, who hails from California, still has difficulty adjusting to the heat.

"I couldn't even breathe on the first day I was here," she said. "It's so hard for the girls who come from UCLA or Michigan or somewhere. They're going to have a tough time breathing when they come here."

This problem can be an advantage for the Gators, who play the majority of their Sunday games in the early afternoon.

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Junior Ameera Abdullah, a native of Colorado, believes all the hard work her team endures gives them an advantage come game day, when opponents are caught off guard by the humid conditions.

"Definitely," she said. "I think it's a really big advantage that we have. I think the other teams are going to be shocked, and in for a real treat when they see how hot it is here."

Evidence of this was clear during UF's home match against Indiana Friday, when a Hoosier player was removed from the game after suffering cramps in the 82nd minute.

Health precautions are taken for all players during practice. Abdullah said players are required to take frequent water breaks, at times wearing heart rate monitors to make sure they avoid the dangers of heat stroke.

The simple act of describing the toughness of the weather is a difficult task for most of the Gators, who had a hard time putting it into words.

Goalkeeper Katie Fraine had no such problem, simply stating: "It's as hot as a monkey's uncle."

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