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Friday, March 31, 2023

Gators fans expected Sunday's rematch of last season's Southeastern Conference title game against Kentucky to be a showdown of two conference powerhouses. But following subpar starts to the season, both teams were simply hoping to keep their heads above water.

On a rain-soaked afternoon, the Gators drowned the Wildcats 1-0.

UF (5-4-2, 1-2 SEC) battled the elements all weekend as Friday's match against Vanderbilt was postponed until Nov. 4 because of inclement weather.

UF coach Becky Burleigh moved one win closer to her 300th career victory, but after the game she was more concerned with the Gators' position in the conference.

"You've got to start somewhere," she said. "That was our first win in the SEC, and we've just got to keep building on this one game at a time."

Despite the small margin of victory, the Gators were dominant throughout the game attempting 17 shots to Kentucky's five.

Though UF only converted one of its shot attempts, nine different players attempted one. Burleigh believes that type of aggressiveness will help her squad in the long term.

"In the first half we subbed a lot, and the people that came in did a great job," she said. "It's a testament to the depth of our team."

Forward Stacy Bishop continued her midseason surge, scoring the game's lone goal in the 23rd minute.

"Coach was stressing all week long that we needed to get the ball in the box," freshman midfielder Karly Findorff said. "Stacy was on the back post which is obviously somewhere we want to put it, and she went in there and made a great header."

The goal was Bishop's third score in four games - the only goals the Gators have recorded during that stretch. The senior said that she's made adjustments to her playing style.

"The coaches have told me to stay forward more because I was playing too much defense," she said. "It's been paying off, getting high and getting to where I feel like I can score and get to balls that are coming in."

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UF's speed gave Kentucky problems throughout the game. With field conditions that were less than ideal, the Gators' superior speed gave them an advantage, as each team found itself chasing balls slowed by the wet ground.

"We felt like we had some advantages on the ground and in the air," Burleigh said. "And we took advantage of them."

After receiving her first career start last week against Kentucky, goalkeeper Meghan Berlingo moved back to the bench, and redshirt freshman Katie Fraine returned to the starting lineup. After showing a bit of indecision, Burleigh said that Fraine appears to be the favorite again.

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