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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
<p>UF defender Claire Falknor waits for the start of the second period during Florida's 2-1 win against Troy in an exhibition match on Aug. 11, 2015, at the soccer practice field at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.</p>

UF defender Claire Falknor waits for the start of the second period during Florida's 2-1 win against Troy in an exhibition match on Aug. 11, 2015, at the soccer practice field at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

With a three-way tie for first place in the Southeastern Conference, coach Becky Burleigh's Gators have little room for error.

The No. 8 Florida soccer team will host No. 17 South Carolina tonight at 7, looking for some breathing room at the top of the leaderboard.

Florida is 20-5-1 in the all-time series with South Carolina, but the momentum has shifted in the Gamecocks' direction as of late.

The Gators have dropped three of the last four to the Gamecocks (11-3-1, 5-2-1 SEC), including the previous two games in Gainesville.

Despite the first-place tie, both teams are trending in opposite directions at the moment.

The Gators (11-3-1, 5-2-1 SEC) have won their previous three games, while the Gamecocks have lost their last two.

Both of the teams that have beaten South Carolina during its current streak were defeated by the Gators earlier in the season, as Ole Miss and Vanderbilt have come up short against UF by respective scores of 4-1 and 3-2.

However, that doesn’t change how UF will approach this highly anticipated matchup.

Both teams are fighting for a top seed in the SEC tournament, and with just three games left for each side, every match matters.

Much of the Gators’ recent struggles can be attributed to the lack of focus that the team displays towards the end of games.

The past two games — both respective 2-1 wins against LSU and Mississippi State — have seen Florida give up last-minute goals.

Although the goals didn’t make a difference in the result, the mistakes that were made will not be as forgiving against a tough South Carolina team.

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"We just need to end the games and continue giving 100-percent effort all the way through the 90 minutes," senior defender Claire Falknor said.

South Carolina will provide an intense battle for UF, and the "Gators soccer" mindset should be in full swing at James G. Pressly Stadium.

"We just need to play with…a good one-two-touch rhythm, continue to defend hard, but patiently, (and) deal with set pieces effectively," Florida coach Becky Burleigh said of the style of play she’d like to see.

An obstacle Florida will have to overcome leading up to tonight’s game is keeping in mind that there is another game in just three days.

Two-game weekends are challenging because it requires the team to compile its strategy for each game based on the entire weekend.

Unlike last weekend, which consisted of just one game — the win over MSU — the Gators have two matches to think about between tonight and Sunday night, when they will play Arkansas on Senior Night.

Last weekend, the Gators used just four subs in the Mississippi State game, whereas the weekend before that — a two-game weekend — 13 players were brought off the bench between the two games.

"We won’t have that luxury this week," Florida coach Becky Burleigh said of the ability to control substitution patterns this weekend.

"We’ll be relying on more players."

While multi-game weekends can be tricky, Burleigh knows where the team’s head needs to be when the starting whistle blows.

"The most important game is the next one," Burleigh said, "and that’s the South Carolina match."

 Follow Kyle Brutman on Twitter @KBrut13

UF defender Claire Falknor waits for the start of the second period during Florida's 2-1 win against Troy in an exhibition match on Aug. 11, 2015, at the soccer practice field at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

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