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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Florida soccer looks to alleviate road woes against Tennessee

<p>UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh puts her arm around defender Rachelle Smith (81) following Florida's 3-2 win against Florida State on Aug. 30, 2015, at James G. Pressly Stadium.</p>

UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh puts her arm around defender Rachelle Smith (81) following Florida's 3-2 win against Florida State on Aug. 30, 2015, at James G. Pressly Stadium.

Florida soccer coach Becky Burleigh has a history of dominating teams on the road in the Southeastern Conference.

But tonight, the No. 12 Gators will face the only opponent they have struggled on the road against: Tennessee.  

UF (8-3-1, 2-2-1 SEC) travel to Knoxville, Tennessee, which is the only road venue the team will play at this year where Burleigh has a losing record.

Florida is 3-5-1 all-time in Knoxville, Burleigh’s second worst record on the road against a team the Gators have played five or more times — only North Carolina has a better record against UF.

The Gators went toe-to-toe with the Volunteers twice last season and will get a chance to face off with their SEC East opponent tonight at 7.

The Volunteers (6-1-5, 2-1-2 SEC) have only given up five goals this season.

Only five other Division I women’s soccer teams have given up fewer goals this season.

Couple Tennessee’s defensive numbers with Florida being one of the nation’s top scoring teams and a battle of two different styles becomes evident. Florida is tied for eighth nationally in scoring offense with 33 goals.

“That is going to be the challenge,” Burleigh said. “That’s pretty impressive at this point in the year to have only given up five goals. We know we’re going to have to be opportunistic and have to use the width and really pull them apart.”

Burleigh said that Florida tries to spread out opposing defenses in order to create more scoring opportunities and crossing passes in the attacking third of the field.

The Gators have tried to spread out defenses this season and it has led to offside calls and the halting of numerous offensive possessions.

In the last five games, the Gators have been called offsides 12 times.

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Whether the Gators can find scoring chances or not, Tennessee is prepared. Redshirt senior goalkeeper Julie Eckel leads the SEC with 0.39 goals against per game and has tallied eight solo shutouts this season.  

Senior defender Claire Falknor said she doesn’t think the team has to do anything special heading into tonight’s match — just stay focused, especially on defense.

“In my opinion, I think we should just focus how we did against Kentucky,” Falknor said. “I think that was one of the best games we’ve played this whole season.

“Our job is to defend so we need to focus more on that,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to go forward but our true job is to prevent goals.”

 Follow Ryan Summers on Twitter @RyanSummers18

UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh puts her arm around defender Rachelle Smith (81) following Florida's 3-2 win against Florida State on Aug. 30, 2015, at James G. Pressly Stadium.

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