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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Two down, three to go.

After defeating two in-state rivals to begin the season, No. 9 Florida will try to down another in-state opponent when it hosts Florida Atlantic tonight at 6. The Owls (0-1) are the third of five Florida schools the Gators (2-0) face in the early part of their schedule.

Sunday’s home match against San Diego State (1-1) is the only out-of-state school UF plays until Sept. 17.

Florida got off to a perfect start with a home overtime win against Miami and a road victory against then-No. 25 UCF, defeating the Knights 2-0 in front of a record crowd of 2,141. Junior forward Tahnai Annis supplied the fire power with two second-half goals.

“We knew UCF was going to be tough at home in their season opener,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said. “I thought we really took control of the game in the first half of the second half and capitalized on our early chances.”

Annis’ two-goal effort earned her Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors and helped the Gators jump two spots in the national rankings.

This is the fourth meeting between Florida and FAU. The Gators last faced the Owls in 2008 in Boca Raton, where Annis, then a freshman, netted her first career goal to hand UF a 2-1 overtime win.

The Gators thought they were seeing déjà vu this season when this year’s freshman-phenom Taylor Travis followed in her footsteps with a game-winning goal in overtime against Miami.

The two games this weekend for the Gators offer a range in extremes, as they face a weakened FAU team that was picked to finish ninth in the Sun Belt Conference and the reigning Mountain West Conference Champs in San Diego State.

“We have got two different games this weekend,” Burleigh said. “San Diego State won their conference, and I think they will be a very good opponent. FAU is a team that is in a rebuilding year, but that’s a hard team to play against because they are really well-organized and well-coached.”

Despite its deficiencies, Burleigh expects FAU to show up strong, saying, “they’ll defend hard and make it tough.”

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