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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Even in her third year, defender Liz Ruberry still has a debut to make.

Hailing from Oak Forest, Ill., Ruberry will head home today when the No. 9 UF soccer team (3-1) takes on Illinois (2-2) for the team's first road trip of the season.

This will mark Ruberry?s first time competing as a Gators player in her native state. It?s only the second meeting between the two programs overall.

Ruberry is looking forward to a welcoming atmosphere, as family and friends from around the state will make the trip to Champaign to watch her play.

The redshirt junior said she expects about 100 people to show up, including many who will see her take the field for the first time.

"I would say that at least half of the people coming have never seen me play," Ruberry said. "I have a lot of friends and family coming, and I?m excited that they get to see me and my team compete. We're having such a good year, and I?m glad they get to share that with us."

The Gators are hoping to ride the momentum from last weekend's strong play, when the team defeated South Florida and No. 13 Florida State in consecutive matches.

In an emotionally charged game, a goal late in regulation secured a win against the Seminoles, who had defeated the Gators in the previous two meetings.

For defender Shana Hudson, any idea of a post-win hangover is not an option. The prospect of facing the Illini stirs up feelings of revenge for the senior, who remembers all too well the last time these two teams met.

In the opening game of the 2005 NCAA tournament, Illinois ended UF?s championship hopes, knocking off the Gators 1-0 in double overtime.

"Oh yes, that's definitely a sore subject," Hudson said. "We're definitely looking to go in there and beat them. It sucks being knocked out in the first round. We're not even close to being the same team we were back then. Our whole style is different, and in this case, I think it's for the better."

In fact, the Gators seem to be changing by the week, as the team enters this weekend sporting a lineup different than opening day.

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After debuting at forward last weekend and scoring three goals in two games, senior Ashley Harris seems to have left the back line behind. Harris is set to make her second consecutive start at forward and is ready to thrive in her new role.

"My thing is I want to be the best I can be at every position I play," Harris said. "That's my main goal, to just be the best."

On Sunday, the team will also head to Des Moines, Iowa, where UF will take on Drake (1-1-1). The two squads last met in 2005, with the Gators taking the contest 3-1.

UF coach Becky Burleigh said her team is confident, but will remain focused on the present.

"I think there's no doubt we?re playing well," Burleigh said. "But we know we still have a long way to go, and you don?t want to peak this early in the season."

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