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Saturday, December 02, 2023

Gators find offense in late-season push

Three weeks ago, the Gators seemed broken by their inability to score, crippling the team's national championship aspirations.

But after Friday's 2-0 win against Auburn and Sunday's 5-1 thrashing of Alabama, UF (9-4-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) is the hottest team in the SEC.

The Gators are rolling with a five-game winning streak.

Shana Hudson opened the floodgates on Sunday with an unassisted score, and one minute later, Stacy Bishop ripped another goal past the Crimson Tide's Justine Bernier for her fifth of the season.

"Mel Booth played a perfect ball across," Bishop said. "I just had to tap it in."

Bishop would also assist on Ameera Abdullah's first goal of the season in the 25th minute.

Though she has never appeared to be frustrated by her lack of offensive production this year, the junior seemed relieved by finally scoring a goal.

"It feels pretty good," Abdullah said. "I'm hoping now I can kind of get on a roll and start scoring."

After averaging just 1.2 goals per game in their first nine matches, the Gators have been an offensive juggernaut during their winning streak. UF has scored five goals in two of its past three matches and has averaged nearly three goals per game in its past five contests.

Lost in the attention given to the Gators' up-and-down offense is their solid defensive play. UF has claimed seven shutout victories this season and Sunday would have made it eight, had the Tide's Molly Wittig not scored in the 85th minute.

But the Gators want to focus on their aggressive offense, which outshot the opposition by a wide margin Sunday, taking 28 shots to Alabama's five.

"Our offense puts a lot of pressure on our opponents," UF coach Becky Burleigh said. "Our offense might be our best defense."

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Now, with three of their four remaining games at home, the Gators have a renewed sense of confidence .

After listening to critics who questioned the squad's ability to score, there's also a sense of vindication.

"We're feeling good that everything's coming together," forward KeLeigh Hudson said. "We're starting to score, and we're playing the way we know how to play - the way we can play - and we're going to continue to do that."

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