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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Gators’ depth key to soceer match with Gamecocks

The No. 8 Florida soccer team had more opportunities, put more shots on goal and played tighter defense than Tennessee on Wednesday in its 1-0 double overtime win.

But, by the end of the game, the biggest factor favoring the Gators was their depth. UF used six players from its bench while UT only used two.

Both teams were exhausted after 102 minutes of play, but the Gators had enough energy to celebrate after sophomore Lindsay Thompson's golden goal, while the Volunteers slowly walked off the pitch after Thompson ended their season.

Six Tennessee players stayed on the field from start to finish Wednesday.

"Tennessee was getting tired," midfielder Erika Tymrak said. "Our subs helped us a lot because we put fresh players on the field and basically wore Tennessee out."

As top-seeded Florida (15-4-2) plays South Carolina (16-3-1) tonight at 8:30 in the second round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, the Gators will try to once again drain their opponent.

In a tournament where teams could potentially play three games in five days, having the ability to use a lot of players might be the deciding factor in the championship.

"Depth is huge," UF coach Becky Burleigh said. "Whenever you can use a lot of people and you're looking to play a multi-game situation, it's important."

Unlike the Tennessee game, Florida usually uses about the same amount of players as its opponents do. But Burleigh said her team is still generally deeper in those games because the UF subs are just as talented as the team's starters.

Opposing coaches have noted how good the Gators bench is after games.

"When we sub someone in, they can't even tell the difference," defender Kat Williamson said. "That's a huge compliment to everyone on the team."

Williamson was one of four UF players to actually stay in the whole game Wednesday. But, of those players, three were defenders and the other was goalkeeper Katie Fraine.

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Tennessee used two midfielders for the game's entirety, something the Gators rarely do. Williamson said the backline stays consistent for the entire game while forwards and midfielders usually rotate.

Attacking players have to break through the backline by sprinting and being elusive, but defenders only need to stay in front of their opponents.

"Forwards and attacking midfielders do a lot of running around, and you also have to play defense too," Tymrak said. "They try to rotate up so we have a lot of (fresh) legs so the defense can play us long balls."

Burleigh wants her players to give as much effort as they can when they're on the field this weekend, which is much easier when the occasional break is involved.

"Everybody is expected to play at the same level, no matter if they start, or play 10 minutes, or two minutes or the whole game," Williamson said. "You're expected to play as hard as you can. That's just how it is here and I love it. That's one of the reasons why this team is so successful."

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