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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Roommates becoming quality midfielders for UF

They're the most dynamic freshmen duo under one roof.

And when Tennessee (7-5-2, 3-2-1 Southeastern Conference) hosts No. 11 Florida (10-4-1, 4-1-1 SEC) tonight, the Volunteers back line will need to keep tabs on the pair.

While many Gators freshmen have been doing heavy lifting (almost half of the team's goals come from first-year players), none have impacted the offense as much as midfielders and roommates Erika Tymrak and Brooke Thigpen.

With 13 points each this season, Thigpen and Tymrak are tied for second on the team behind forward Lindsay Thompson.

Between the two, Tymrak has made more noise since conference play began Sept. 25. She has three goals and three assists through six conference games, and her play last week earned her distinction as one of the SEC's Players of the Week.

"She's a budding star in this league," UF coach Becky Burleigh said. "She's just so difficult to mark."

After being a major factor in nonconference play, Thigpen has been a little quieter recently.

But that is not to say she has been ineffective. Thigpen earned an assist in Florida's win against Alabama when she threaded a pass between three defenders to Thompson in the penalty box. The strengths of the freshmen are actually similar, Burleigh said. Both have the foot skills to beat SEC defenders.

"Between the two of them, it's a potent attack," Burleigh said.

And when working on weaknesses in their game, the roommates lean on each other.

"After the game we always talk about what we can work on," Tymrak said. "We always watch video together, too."

Thigpen and Tymrak's comparable playing styles might come from the similar training they received in high school. They played together for five years in Florida's Olympic Development Program.

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Thigpen and Tymrak met after being assigned to the same room at an ODP camp because of similar last names. They were roommates during their five years in the ODP.

And each one knows the other's style as well as anybody.

"She can probably dribble through people," Thigpen said about Tymrak. "She's so quick. She probably has the fastest feet I've ever seen."

Tymrak could publish a good scouting report of Thipen, too.

"Her biggest strength is going at people," Tymrak said about her roommate.

When evaluating herself, Thigpen sees the same things Tymrak does.

"I really take players on," Thigpen said. "I feel like that's my strength."

In a sport where offensive success is dependent on telekinesis-like communication, having players with long-standing relationships can substantially impact a team.

"We played well together right off the bat, even when we were younger," Thigpen said. "And I think that as we grew up and learned each other's strengths and weaknesses, we got a lot better."

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