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Saturday, May 18, 2024

The 2010 campaign has started well for the Gators. They’re 4-0, they’ve allowed only one goal and a Gator was named Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week twice in as many chances.

Still, they’re unsatisfied.

“We have really high expectations for this team, and we are working our way through getting better each game,” coach Becky Burleigh said.

In four games this season, the Gators have won four different ways. They’ve won an overtime thriller, a rain-soaked slugfest, a beat-down and an unsatisfying scrapper.

In each victory, Florida wanted something better. Better finishing. Better focus. Better results.

And, more than anything, the No. 7 Gators want consistency.

“We need to come out hard in every game,” captain McKenzie Barney said. “This past Sunday [when Florida beat San Diego State 1-0] was a big indicator. We need to make sure we come out mentally prepared for every game.”

Despite the win, Sunday’s game was not one of the Gators finest. They came out sluggish and looked disinterested for much of the first half. After notching a goal in the opening seconds of the second half, the Gators still struggled with execution and focus, missing at least five solid opportunities including an empty net attempt.

Burleigh was visibly frustrated after the game.

“It is time for our leadership to step up and make sure everyone is mentally prepared,” she said. “…We took too much for granted.”

The Gators’ inability to score when they’ve created chances has been one of the biggest themes of the early season. Playmakers like Erika Tymrak, Taylor Travis and Nicky Kit have created opportunities in bunches, yet Florida has struggled to find the inside of the white nylon.

“We’re getting a lot of attempts in the box, but we’re just not getting on the end of them,” senior defender Ashlee Elliott said.

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When the Gators have scored this season, the goals have come in quick bursts.

Forward Tahnai Annis scored two goals in six minutes Aug. 22 against UCF. And, against Florida Atlantic Friday, Florida scored three goals in 10 minutes.

However, in both games the Gators took 19 more shots after scoring.

“Our coaches are doing a really good job in the game plan ... what defenses we’ll be facing and how we need to break them down, we need to just execute better,” Barney said.

While the Gators are constantly pushing players forward to attack, they have also struggled at times this season falling into defensive lulls. If not for two fantastic saves by keeper Katie Fraine Sunday afternoon, Florida could have lost or tied the game.

Leading 2-0 against UCF, Fraine and defender Kat Williamson made several key plays when the rest of the team seemed to relax.

Elliott’s move from forward to the back line has seen mixed results. The senior defender has flashed athleticism, but she has also looked confused at times.

“I’ve clearly never played there and it has been evident,” she said. “I like center back, but it is a tough transition because I put so much pressure on myself.”

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