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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Florida soccer faces challenges in final stretch of season

<p>UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh talks with her team following Florida's 2-1 loss to Texas A&amp;M on Sept. 10, 2015, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.</p>

UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh talks with her team following Florida's 2-1 loss to Texas A&M on Sept. 10, 2015, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

Despite there being just three regular season games remaining on the schedule, a lot can change for the No. 13 Florida soccer team from now until the end of the season.

The Gators are one of three teams sitting atop the Southeastern Conference with 16 points apiece, joined by Thursday night’s opponent, South Carolina, and Missouri.

As if that isn’t comfortable enough for Florida, three teams — Auburn, Ole Miss and Texas A&M — are just one point behind the conference leaders.

A couple of bad games, or even bad moments, can be costly considering how close the SEC table is.

The previous two games for the Gators had great potential to put the team in a deep hole heading into the final two weeks, if not for multi-goal leads.

On Oct. 11 at home against LSU, with Florida up 2-0, a goal that built up off a LSU free kick landed in the back of the net, ending the shutout opportunity. However, the Gators still escaped with three points.

On Friday night in Starkville, Mississippi, another 2-0 lead was shortened against Mississippi, this time with just seconds remaining in the game.

A long throw-in from the Bulldogs’ Ariana Holmes landed in the top of the box, eventually finding the foot of Kennadi Carbin, who put the ball behind Florida goalie Valerie Tysinger with just three seconds to spare.

Another attempt at the first conference shutout was foiled.

"In both those instances, our team was pretty disappointed, even with the win," UF coach Becky Burleigh said.

If Gators had just one goal going into each of the situations, they would have lost four points in the standings, pushing them down the rankings into a seventh-place tie with Vanderbilt.

Despite the frustrating errors, the Gators ended up with the victory in each of those two games, and Burleigh said the end result is what the team will focus on.

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"It’s a lot more fun to learn while you’re winning then while you’re losing," she said.

Considering the fact that both of the goals were allowed on set pieces, the teaching moments for Florida will likely revolve around how it defended free kicks, throw-ins and corner kicks.

Another point that Burleigh wants to get across to her team is delivering two solid halves, rather than relying on one exceptional 45-minute half to secure points.

This was evident in each of the last two games, in terms of shots.

Against LSU, Florida was outshot six to four in the first half but came out firing in the second half, with 17 shots to the Tigers’ five.

In the Mississippi State game, the first half served as the more dominant of the two.

After outshooting the Bulldogs seven to two in the first 45 minutes, Florida took six shots and allowed five to the opposition.

"The second of our Mississippi state game wasn’t as clean," Burleigh said. "We want to be able to put together two 45-minute halves"

Now in a tight spot with little time left before the SEC tournament, the only thing the Gators can do is limit mistakes and manage their game.

"What is in our control," Burleigh said. "is winning each moment."

 Follow Kyle Brutman on Twitter @KBrut13

UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh talks with her team following Florida's 2-1 loss to Texas A&M on Sept. 10, 2015, at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

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