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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Senior Ashlee Elliott promised pizazz this year and delivered after one game.

After a scoreless first half against in-state rival Miami, Elliott scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal on a header sent in from Tricia Townsend.

Before classes even started, the Gators soccer team went to work and nabbed a 1-0 win over the Hurricanes in Coral Gables on Friday night.

"A lot more excitement, a lot more pizazz," Elliott said about this year's team. "I feel like there's going to be a lot more creativity."

UF coach Becky Burleigh said her team exhibited more nerves than rust.

"To have a chance to get a lot of freshmen get experience, to start on the road, to get the win was a good result for us," Burleigh said.

The Gators' first match of the season was a learning experience for a team with 25 underclassmen on the 33-woman roster.

"It was good to get a chance to actually play another team and just for the freshmen to get to see what college soccer is all about," goalkeeper Katie Fraine said.

Fraine racked up five saves en route to her shutout and sealed the win as the Hurricanes pressured late with shots in the 89th and 90th minutes.

"It was just awesome to get to see our ideas and creativity work against a team that didn't know what was coming," Fraine said.

Fraine acknowledged the first game wasn't the prettiest but that some rust was to be expected with a younger team.

"We're not going to be mad at them, it's their first game," Elliott said. "I was there, and I'm not going to blame them if they miss a pass, miss a goal."

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Youth hasn't quelled the preseason hype.

The Gators (1-0-0) headed into this season ranked 10th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) preseason poll and were also picked by league coaches as the preseason favorite to win the Southeastern Conference.

"For this team and the level of talent we have, being able to establish ourselves at home and on the road is both very important," Burleigh said.

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