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<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.

The Florida soccer team will lose three defensive-minded players at the end of the season, but their focus hasn’t shifted to nostalgia.

Seniors Claire Falknor, Lauren Smith and Christen Westphal will play in their final home game as Florida Gators on Sunday, when No. 8 Florida (12-3-1, 6-2-1 Southeastern Conference) hosts Arkansas (5-9-1, 1-6-1 SEC) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.

With their collegiate careers nearing their conclusion, the three seniors haven’t focused on the past.

Falknor said that the idea of potentially playing her final game in Gainesville hasn’t hit her yet.

"It would be nice to get another shutout as a team," Falknor said when asked about her goals, "and then winning the SEC championship and a national championship would be really nice."

The Dayton, Ohio, native has started every game the past two seasons for coach Becky Burleigh and was named to the 2014 All-SEC Second Team.

Collectively, the seniors have provided this year’s Gators squad with 12 assists, a goal and — above all else — veteran leadership.

Freshman goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese said the presence of Falknor, Smith and Westphal on the pitch in front of her has helped her development as a player incredibly.

"Those three are massive on defense," Marckese said.

"Having them there and being able to learn from them, it’s not even the same position, just learning from them and how they play has been huge helping me understand the game and the position and how we play as a team."

Marckese said the seniors are a tight knit group off the field as well, contributing to team camaraderie.

"The three of them together, they’re really good friends so that helps," Marckese said.

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"They’re great about bringing in the team and talking to everybody."

With a team that brought in a 15-member freshman class, guidance on the field is something the seniors were able to provide this season.

Burleigh said the three of them have been great mentors for the younger players, their leadership qualities made evident through their work ethic.

"You see them out here early before practice, you see them leading on the field and explaining things to people that need more instruction," Burleigh said.

"They’re good role models and good teachers of the game and just good people."

Westphal and Smith have split corner kick duties this season after Smith returned to the lineup prior to the Oklahoma State game.

Westphal, a Brecksville, Ohio, native, was in a starting role since arriving on campus in 2012. She is a two-time All-SEC First-Team member and a 2013 All-American.

Westphal has had the most productive season of her career, assisting on nine goals and scoring one on a ball that was meant to find the foot of junior forward Savannah Jordan.

Westphal said after Thursday night’s overtime win against South Carolina that Sunday will be an emotional day for her.

"My whole family is going to be there," Westphal said. "That’s going to make it even more special. ... It’s going to be cool to have them in the stands."

Smith, a defensive midfielder from Eustis, Florida, has given Burleigh a versatile option in the midfield and along the defensive backline, tallying two assists.

When asked about Sunday’s match, Burleigh said the thoughts of her and the seniors always rush back as the season winds down.

"It’s always a very special game.”

 Follow Ryan Summers on Twitter @RyanSummers18

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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