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Thursday, February 02, 2023

After avenging last season's Southeastern Conference title game loss to Kentucky on Wednesday, UF is hoping to avoid a helping of payback from LSU tonight.

The Gators (14-4-2, 10-2 SEC) face the Tigers (11-3-7, 5-2-4 SEC) at 8:30 in the SEC Tournament semifinals after shutting out the Wildcats 4-0 on Wednesday.

UF dismantled the Tigers on Oct. 28, sending them back to Baton Rouge with a 5-0 loss. It was one of 12 shutouts on the season for the Gators.

BThey?re going to come out hard and try to play with intensity,C UF forward Stacy Bishop said. BIt?s up to us to match that intensity.C

Tonight?s game is also personal for Bishop.

She transferred from to UF from LSU in 2005 and is 1-0-1 against the Tigers since.

A victory tonight - likely her last match against her former school - is appealing to Bishop.

BPlaying against LSU makes it a little more interesting,C said Bishop, a first-team All-SEC selection. BI?d definitely like to beat them.C

For the Gators, LSU is just one obstacle on a road they hope leads to national success.

BWe?re pretty confident,C Bishop said. BAnd we want a national championship badly. Especially with so many seniors on the team, we know this is our last chance. We want the SEC regular season and tournament titles and the national title.C

The Gators? defense places them in a strong position to reach that goal.

During their current 10-game winning streak, the Gators have shut out nine opponents. UF is also averaging nearly three goals per game during the stretch.

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Midfielder KeLeigh Hudson attributed the Gators? aggressive offensive play to trust in the strength of their defense.

BWe trust our defense and they trust us,C she said. BIt works both ways. We know our back line is going to play stellar defense and they?re not going to let anything get by them. That gives us on offense so much confidence that we?re able to just go out and have fun.C

It has been fun for UF, largely because of the defense.

Bishop and Hudson said they?ve never played on a better defensive team.

BThere?s just so much versatility,C Bishop said. BOur defenders are fast, and our forwards and midfielders get into it, too. It?s a team effort, but our back line is just so tough to beat. I don?t think you?ll find a better back four in the college game.C

No matter what the defense does, after the lashing the Tigers took before, they'll come out hard tonight.

BThey?re going to come out with everything they?ve got," Hudson said. They?ve got nothing to lose and they?re going to do their best out their. It?s on a neutral field and we expect them to play better. So we have to come out and play better.C

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