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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Florida heads to Mississippi State seeking crucial SEC victory

<p>UF forward Savannah Jordan shoots during Florida's 2-1 loss to Texas A&amp;M on Sept. 10, 2015, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.</p>

UF forward Savannah Jordan shoots during Florida's 2-1 loss to Texas A&M on Sept. 10, 2015, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

The last time the 13th-ranked Florida soccer team traveled to Starkville, Mississippi, the team set an NCAA record.

In the 2013 match, the Gators took 26 corner kicks, breaking the old mark of 23, set by Wisconsin in 2010.

One would think that this game, which saw Florida outshoot the Bulldogs 25-8, produced a dominating result for UF, but that wasn’t the case.

The Gators broke a scoreless match with a goal in the 108th minute to get a 1-0 double overtime victory.

Two years before that game, the then-No. 11 Gators were upset by an unranked Bulldogs team 1-0 at MSU Soccer Field.

Case in point, Starkville poses a tough environment for Florida.

Gators coach Becky Burleigh said that a Mississippi State tradition serves as a large part of creating a true home-field advantage.

“They always have the cowbells,” Burleigh said.

Tonight at 8, the Gators (10-3-1, 4-2-1 Southeastern Conference) will head back to Starkville to take on the Bulldogs (4-7-3, 2-3-2 SEC) in a critical game for both teams.

With UF and MSU each having just four games left, Florida is looking to inch closer to respective conference frontrunners South Carolina and Auburn, while Mississippi State is vying for a spot in November’s SEC tournament.

While the Bulldogs’ record isn’t all that impressive, the team’s game on Sunday proved otherwise. Mississippi State took a 3-0 result at home against a Kentucky team that tied the Gators 1-1 on Oct. 2.

Burleigh said that Kentucky found themselves making the same mistakes that her team made against the Wildcats, a match in which — despite the result — Florida outshot UK 27 to six.

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The Gators were trying to launch balls into the box from the outside and hoping for the best.

“We’re trying to put it in an 8-by-8 rectangle and they’re trying to put in anywhere else in the universe,” Burleigh said. “Chances are, it’s easier to put it anywhere else in the universe.

“We have to do a better job of passing our way in instead of just dumping the ball in the box.”

Doing a better job in that aspect is just one of the several ways that Gators emphasize on the constant mission of playing like themselves.

Junior Savannah Jordan, the SEC leader in goals with 14, believes Florida can win Friday if they don’t stray away from what the team knows best.

“We just need to play our game,” Jordan said. “If we stick to that, and stick to who we are, then I think we’ll be fine.”

 Follow Kyle Brutman on Twitter @KBrut13

UF forward Savannah Jordan shoots during Florida's 2-1 loss to Texas A&M on Sept. 10, 2015, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

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