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Friday, September 29, 2023

The Gators are about to start their Southeastern Conference season, but the toughest stretch of the 2010 campaign may already be behind them.

Florida went 1-1-1 the past two weeks against No. 1 North Carolina, No. 13 Florida State and No. 14 Duke.

“As far as the competition, this is exactly what we wanted heading into the SEC,” coach Becky Burleigh said.

The No. 7 Gators (6-1-1) will be able to measure just how much that stiff early-season competition has paid off tonight at 7, when they travel to Kentucky (6-2). UF will then travel to Vanderbilt on Sunday.

“Both teams are really tough at home and we seem to play a lot of overtime games with them on the road,” Burleigh said. “This weekend we expect two teams who are trying to start off well in the SEC like we are.”

UF is 12-2-1 all time in SEC openers and 3-2 in SEC openers on the road.

Florida has won the past four SEC championships, and league coaches picked the Gators to repeat again this season.

In Florida’s last two meetings with Kentucky, the Gators defeated the Wildcats in overtime. Junior Lindsay Thompson scored the golden goal in both matches.

“The most important thing for us is to take all the experience we have gained in the nonconference portion of the season and apply that to this weekend,” Burleigh said.

As the Gators enter the middle of the season they are still trying to find their identity. Florida generates good offensive play through the consistency of the team’s defense, which pressures opponents in their own territory and causes turnovers.

“Since we have numbers, there are a lot of options to play short and keep possession,” Burleigh said. “The hardest part for us is to make sure that we are really intense on defense and have high energy.”

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