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Friday, March 31, 2023

Gators stay undefeated with 1-0 win over South Carolina

An undefeated conference season cements the Gators in the Southeastern Conference record book.

With a late goal from senior midfielder Ameera Abdullah, No. 7 UF defeated South Carolina 1-0 Thursday to finish a perfect 11-0 in conference play. It's the first time a team has accomplished that feat since the conference switched to a new scheduling format in 2004 where every team plays each other.

"It really is something for the ages," UF coach Becky Burleigh said. "There are going to be teams - whether it is a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now - that are going to say, 'We want to be like the 2008 team and go 11-0 in the league.

"Those are some pretty lofty expectations."

Future UF teams will want to achieve the success this team has accomplished, but this year's Gators still want to be like another team in the program's history.

Just like the 1998 UF team, they strive to continue their perfect SEC season all the way to a National Championship.

To do this, the team must forget about its regular-season success and concentrate on each game ahead, starting with the SEC Tournament.

"It's a whole different game. Everybody is zero-zero again, so we'll preach that and they will understand that," Burleigh said. "Everybody has already seen everybody so that makes it twice as difficult to beat teams twice, so I don't think they will take anything for granted."

Even with its inexperience, Burleigh feels her team is ready for the pressures that come with the postseason.

She said her team has been in plenty of pressure situations this year, including keeping the undefeated streak going.

Despite the accomplishments the Gators realized already this season, they still have plenty of room to improve, something Burleigh's squad last year could not do.

"We were playing really, really well at the end of last year, and we hit the postseason and didn't quite play as well," Burleigh said. "This year, I wouldn't say this team is playing at its peak, which is exciting.

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"At the same time, it's about that time of the year when you want to hit that, so we got to get there pretty soon."

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