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Thursday, December 07, 2023

Gators finally back for some home-field advantage

Finally, there's rest for the road weary.

After playing four of its first five Southeastern Conference matches on the road, the UF soccer team (7-4-2, 3-2 SEC) enters the stretch run of its season with a home-heavy schedule.

The Gators play five of their final six games at Pressly Stadium beginning tonight at 7 against Auburn and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. against Alabama.

BI?m excited about being at home,C UF coach Becky Burleigh said. BIt?s always nice to not have to travel and sleep in your own bed, play on your own field in front of your own fans.C

UF opened SEC play with tough losses to Georgia and Tennessee.

The 0-2 start left the Gators reeling, and a season that began with hopes of a national championship appeared to be on the brink of disaster.

With three consecutive shutout victories and a remaining favorable schedule, UF looks to be headed in the right direction.

Or, at least, that?s what the team hopes.

BWe?re starting to click right now,C goalkeeper Katie Fraine said. BAs long as we can keep putting goals in the net and keeping them out of our net, I think we?ll be just fine. I mean, none of us have been too worried about it. There have been a couple a times when we?ve come out with a loss or a tie when we wanted to come out with a win, but I don?t think any of our hopes ever fell too far.C

The Gators? winning streak has them rising in the conference standings after opening play at the bottom of the division.

UF is currently in third place in the SEC East, trailing just Georgia and Tennessee.

The Gators? swift rebound following such a dismal start leaves them in prime position to make a run at the division title.

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Maintaining their current momentum is the key for the Gators, but don?t tell Burleigh the home schedule makes it easier.

BWinning,C Burleigh said. BWinning is the best way to keep it going. Whether it?s on the road or at home, it doesn?t really matter.C

Winning will, in fact, keep the momentum going, but the prevailing sentiment among the players is the home stretch can only help them.

So much so that Fraine believes UF?s stretch of home games make the rough patch almost worth it.

BDefinitely,C Fraine said. BObviously you want to be playing your best soccer at the end of the season, and to be able to do that on your home field in front of your own fans is great.C

The Gators are careful not to get too far ahead of themselves.

Even though they have done so much to lift themselves out of the bottom of the conference, UF realizes there?s still work to be done.

BThere?s six games left, so there?s still a long way to go,C Burleigh said. BThe SEC is a marathon, not a sprint, so we?ve got to win these two games to keep that momentum going.C

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