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Friday, March 31, 2023

Gators fall to Bulldogs in second round of SEC Tournament

The UF soccer team would have had a better chance at continuing in the Southeastern Conference Tournament had UF football coach Urban Meyer given it his "Plan to Win."

The four keys to the plan are executing on close scoring chances, winning the turnover margin, dominating on defense and winning the kicking game.

The No. 7 Gators (17-3-1, 11-0 SEC) were unable to do any of those in Friday night's 3-0 loss to Georgia - who went on to lose to Tennessee 1-1 on penalty kicks in the finals on Sunday - in the second round of the SEC Tournament, ending their winning streak against conference foes at 24 and their current streak at 13.

"Offensively, we didn't finish. We created a lot of chances … so I'm not upset with amount of opportunities, but we got to do a better job finishing," UF coach Becky Burleigh said. "But what did us in more than anything on (Friday) were turnovers. Our own turnovers in our own half has plagued us a little bit all year, and it caught up to us (Friday)."

UF's defense has seen better days. There has been only one other game where the Gators allowed three goals.

The score that hurts the most is the one Gators defender Jazmyne Avant put in her own net in the third minute of the match.

Already being crowned SEC Champions because of their perfect regular season in conference play, claiming the automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament that comes with winning SEC Tournament would have been icing on the cake for the Gators.

But if they are to advance further than the third round of the NCAA Tournament - the Gators have been knocked out in the third round the last two years - they will need to fix the flaws from Friday.

"We have to analyze the mistakes that we made and see what we can do better in terms of getting ready for next week," Burleigh said.

UF will need to work quickly because it only has five or seven days to get the kinks out - the first round of games begin on Friday or Sunday - before its run at a national championship begins. Tonight, the brackets will be announced for the NCAA Tournament.

Despite the loss, the Gators should still be a high seed and host a regional game - the top four teams in each region host the first two rounds. In the latest RPI rankings according to, UF was ranked seventh.

Losing is never fun, but there were a few bright spots that came from the defeat.

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Burleigh said she learned a lot about the fight her team had from the way they continued to push even when they were down by three.

Also, the early exit allows the Gators to get some much-needed rest before the national tournament begins.

"I'm never going to be happy with a loss, but it does give us a little bit of extra rest heading into the NCAA Tournament and gives us a chance to get everybody healthy," Burleigh said.

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