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Monday, June 05, 2023

It’s a matchup of two top-10 teams. It’s a matchup featuring multiple nominees for the sport’s most prestigious award. It’s a game with fresh blood, smack talk and a blackout.

It’s Florida vs. Florida State, soccer style.

While the football rivalry between the two schools has lingered of late, the futbol rivalry is just kicking into gear.

Tonight at 7, the reigning ACC regular-season champions take on the defending SEC champs in a battle for state supremacy under the bright lights at the Seminole Soccer Complex. The No. 6 Gators ride into Tallahassee unfazed by facing a sea of black as FSU (4-1-0) fans push aside their usual garnet and gold.

“This is why people come to Florida and FSU, to play in big games like this,” coach Becky Burleigh said. “If you can’t get excited for this, you can’t get excited for anything.” 

With both programs in top form, the games always carry NCAA Tournament implications, especially regarding the right to host postseason matches, Burleigh said.

“Even though FSU isn’t in our conference, this carries the same weight because it is such a rivalry and means so much.”

While the rivalry between the two successful programs is always spirited, the blackout has taken this year’s bout to a different level. 

Freshman forward Maggie Rodgers admitted the blackout had been discussed this week at practice. 

“They’re going to try and black us out, but it is only going to pump us up more,” Rodgers said.

Keeper Katie Fraine said with so many in-state girls on the team that everyone has a sense of how important the rivalry is.

“This is the last time I'll ever get to hopefully spank FSU,” Fraine said. “It would be sweet to do it on a blackout.”

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Fraine also expressed excitement over seeing the opposing fans at their best, saying that’s what every player relishes.

Rodgers will have several of her own fans in the stadium tonight as friends from FSU will be in attendance and rocking orange and blue.

“They’ll be painted up, acting crazy,” she said. “Even though they go to FSU, they’re going to be a Florida fan that day.”

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