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Monday, April 22, 2024

Ruberry shows she belongs in starting lineup

It took just three games for Liz Ruberry to lose her starting job.

She would have to wait until Sept. 28 against Tennessee, the 10th game of the season, before getting another chance to show she belonged in the starting rotation.

At the start of the year, the senior was one of the three offensive midfielders until the more offensive-minded freshman Tahnai Annis stepped in and took over her spot.

Then, in the Georgia match on Sept. 26, Ruberry went in for Sarah Chapman as a defensive midfielder.

She has started all nine games since then and will take the field at the start of today's match at South Carolina in the last regular-season match of her college career.

"Just to get back on the field was a really good feeling, and it's nice to contribute again," Ruberry said.

Her presence on the pitch has helped strengthen the defense and brought much-needed leadership to a young Gators team.

UF coach Becky Burleigh described her as "another coach on the field."

At times when the team lost its cool and Burleigh couldn't talk to the players herself, she would send in Ruberry to help relax them.

"She's someone that the team goes to as the person to calm everyone down on the field," Lauren Hyde said. "The coaches have put her in for that particular reason sometimes."

The team as a whole is young, but the addition of Ruberry to the defense has added that needed experience.

The middle of the UF defense now includes three juniors - Hyde, Ashlee Elliott and Caitlin Howard - and Ruberry, the senior.

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"Since our team is so young, the more (upperclassmen) we can get on the field, the better," Hyde said. "The younger girls look up to all the older girls, and just to have more on the field is better for the team."

Ruberry's role on the team when she wasn't starting was more than first off the bench.

She also made sure to keep supporting her team and helping the other players on the bench, even when it wasn't where she wanted to be.

"It's hard being a senior (on the bench), but I wanted the team to do well and had to put my personal feelings aside," Ruberry said.

The time spent on the sidelines motivated Ruberry to push herself more in practice to regain her starting spot.

Now that she has her role in the starting lineup back, Ruberry is making sure not to lose it again.

"I was working really hard in practice and just hoping it would pay off," Ruberry said. "So when I got my chance … I just kept thinking, 'Don't lose your chance,' and I have just kept going with that."

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